In September of 2007, a newly reconstructed Boston Celtics team gathered for a road trip. The post office was still processing Kevin Garnett's change of address from Minneapolis. Ray Allen still had movers packing his stuff up in Seattle. The introductions were fresh, and the team still needed to get to know each other. And this road trip they were about to embark upon was going to accelerate that process.
Instead of their usual training camp trip down to Newport, R.I., the Celtics went to Italy. And to a man, the Celtics credit that trip for a chemistry that spawned :"Ubuntu." The Celtics went on to win a title that season… and they are hoping for a repeat.
"Whenever you go on a road trip — even during the season — it's never a bad thing," said coach Doc Rivers, who has long felt that the Roman holiday helped the new Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen become better acquainted and jump-start their run to the 2008 NBA title. "The craziest thing is their cellphones don't work over there. So they have to talk to each other on the buses."
In 2008, the Celtics had no clue how all the pieces would fit. In 2012, it is a little different.
The Celtics chemistry at the moment already seems off the charts. The guys gathered in Los Angeles before training camp even started to start workouts on their own. The scene then shifted to Boston where the camaraderie continued at a pace that almost seems fabricated. It is difficult to explain… but Garnett gave it a shot.
"I will say this, though. And this is totally off the record — well, not off or on the record, but — yesterday we had a [team] dinner that we were driving to and we've never followed each other, none of that. Obviously, the new guys learning the city and stuff. And the way we were driving in formation, this guy getting over, letting him in, blinkers — it was all cohesive. So, I'm going to chalk that up, that's like solid chemistry for me being able to follow you or driving or anything like that. That was some good driving continuity, so I'm going to chalk that up as some team chemistry in there somewhere, you know? It's like gumbo. I'm throwing everything in there. I got driving, I got social, I got Turkey and Milan, so, yeah, we'll see how this tastes at the end of the day."
It is hard to say whether this is just preseason giddiness or actual, honest-to-goodness deep friendships being forged. Take a look around the C's Twitter pages, and it is hard not to see it as the latter.
When you spend eight months out of the year with people, liking them is a lot easier than not liking them. And right now, the Celtics really seem to like each other.
And when you like each other, it will make the inevitable clashes easier to deal with. Brothers will fight, especially when emotions run as high as they do with some of these guys. The chemistry will show if they can get past those fights quickly.
The Celtics are working toward a common goal of winning a title. On the road, in Istanbul, where the only people they have to talk to is each other, the process of actually building a team rather than a collection of individuals can truly begin.
Not everyone agrees, including some coaches, which is something Doc Rivers just does not understand.
“I think they should open their minds a little bit,” said Rivers. “I think it’s great — good to get your team away, and the further away the better is the way I look at it. I like putting your team in places they’re not used to. I think it’s good for the team, and I think it’s good team bonding.
“Last night, just sitting at the hotel, I saw eight or nine of our guys sitting at a table eating dinner together,” he said. “I think that’s fantastic.”
The Celtics look good on paper. Maybe not as good as some teams, but better than others. And when you are looking for an advantage over other teams, it is little things like this that can make a difference.
I have used the word "trust" once already today. I will use it again now. If these guys build a trust in one another because of this, and if they do it before other teams have a chance to, they will come out ahead of the game. And any head start you can get in the NBA is a huge help towards that final goal.
Will their trip to Istanbul make the Celtics a championship team? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter by using the hashtag #CelticsDay.
Photo via Paul Pierce's Twitter