WALTHAM — They will be traveling farther from home than any previous Celtics team, and Kevin Garnett wants to make sure his teammates are taking care of business during this preseason trip, which begins in Turkey Tuesday.
“The main thing is go over there and get some work in and not discontinue what we’re doing,” Garnett said before practice Monday. “We had our best practice of the year yesterday.”
Coach Doc Rivers was also satisfied with Sunday’s session, only the third official workout of the Celtics’ preseason. Rivers is working with several combinations, emphasizing a “small ball” lineup with Jeff Green at power forward and also attempting to develop a new second unit, led by Jason Terry.
“Today, we’re going to almost exclusively have small lineups on the floor,” Rivers said. “We’re going to change them around, so that’ll be fine. This is the first year we’ve actually worked on it, and we’re going to work on it so we can [practice it] every day.”
With the exception of Tuesday, that is. The Celtics departed Monday night, scheduling a fuel stop in Reykjavik before heading to Istanbul. The team will resume practice Wednesday and Thursday, then play an exhibition against Fenerbahce Ulker Friday.
“I like our energy,” Rivers said. “I just like everyone trying to get it, everyone getting past being frustrated when things don’t go well. They play hard. I like our second unit. They got their butt kicked [Saturday], they were awful; yesterday they improved, they responded, and that was from Jason.
“[Terry] is a better ballhandler. I mean, I knew he could score off the dribble, but he’s really natural at the point. That surprised me; I never saw him. We’re trying to create offense where it’s not a point-guard-dominant offense unless [Rajon] Rondo’s on the floor. We try to eliminate all ball pressure.
“We have a lot of lineups on paper and we’ll see how they are when the season starts.”
Rivers is leaving the team’s inside game to Garnett.
“Kevin’s been phenomenal,” Rivers said. “He had big man camp of his own yesterday and he’s run it almost every day. It’s nice, you can tell when the veterans like the young guys. You can see that — they like the new guys, not just the young guys.
“Again, we haven’t lost a game yet. Everyone likes each other until the first loss or four or five guys aren’t playing. Then things change and then you really see the team dynamics.”
The Celtics spent the 2007-08 preseason in Rome and London in an attempt to galvanize the team around newcomers Ray Allen and Garnett.
“I guess this is a little different,” Rivers said. “We scheduled the Rome trip in response to all the moves we made. We really wanted that to happen.
“This one, I don’t know if could say I wanted it. It’s something now, with all the moves, I’m looking forward to it. I think whenever you go on the road, even during the season, it’s never a bad thing. I think it’s great for the [young players] because it gives them a little bit of a taste of what a road trip is like, even though we only play two games.
“Everything for them is new and this will give them, when we do finally go on the road, this will be a good lesson for them.”
There will be time for diversions, a boat ride on the Bosporus or a listening in at La Scala when the team goes to Milan next week. But the prime purpose of this visit is prepare for the season, according to Rondo.
“It will be a regular training camp, except we’ll be out of the country,” Rondo said. “We want to continue our focus each day as far as getting better, working on sets, become as good a team as we can.”
Said Rivers: “We’re not going to change. We’ll do our job, all the other stuff is secondary. This is our camp and that’s the way I look at it.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.