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C's hope team that hangs together will win together

WALTHAM -- It seems like the Celtics have spent as much time bonding as a team off the court as they have going through defensive drills. The night before their first practice, the whole gang went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Waltham. On Thursday afternoon, coach Doc Rivers surprised the players by taking them to an advance showing of the move ``The Departed." While all the time together may strike many as very college-like, not very NBA-like, it could pay dividends during the season.

There are already signs the Celtics have developed close relationships and feel comfortable with each other. While shooting free throws after practices, Ryan Gomes, Allan Ray and Rajon Rondo talk trash and generally joke around with each other. And that says a lot for three soft-spoken guys. In another grouping, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Kevin Pittsnogle, and Wally Szczerbiak joked around. With the exception of Paul Pierce, the players and assistant coaches spent a lot of time at the team training facility this summer, developing chemistry as they worked out.

The Celtics hope familiarity built during the offseason carries over into the regular season, giving one of the youngest teams in the league some advantage. At the very least, Rivers said the growing chemistry makes the Celtics an easy team to coach.

``Competition is the second test," said Rivers. ``If you're not [winning], do they stay together? This is the best team I've had since I've been here as far as they just let you coach them. You deal every day with the team, the players, with basketball. You don't have to deal with anything else. They get along with each other. They get along with the staff. They listen. This is a group of guys that just really wants to do well. If they can continue in the same spirit, the sky's the limit."

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