Coach Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics are preparing for their season opener on Dec. 23 with a shortened preseason. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

A lot of the little things are being magnified right now.

The latest crop of Celtics rookies have not only arrived without the benefit of summer league, but also have to pick up the system in a COVID-shortened training camp. Jeff Teague, a 32-year-old veteran point guard but a newcomer to Boston, had to look over this week as Brad Stevens called out a play to decipher the terminology.

The first exhibition game is Dec. 15, and the season opener is Dec. 23 against Milwaukee, followed by a Christmas showcase game against Brooklyn.

It’s a blur for even the most seasoned in this league. Stevens admittedly hasn’t had time to read the most recent memos from the league regarding protocols, restrictions, and how the NBA is going to pull off a more difficult trick this time around.

Teams will fly without the protection of a bubble this time, with road games, back-to-backs and much more that can go wrong.

The Celtics coach hasn’t even spent much time looking at the schedule that was released by the league Friday, and even that isn’t complete. It only covers the first half, into the first week of March.


“My focus on the schedule is how difficult our first stretch is. We’ve got our hands full,” said Stevens. “It’s imperative that we get to be as good as we can be when it starts. We start with two great opponents at home, go to another great opponent (Indiana) on the road for two games, and it just continues and continues. Have a back-to-back coming back with a really good Memphis team.

“So it’s something, when they announced we would be playing in December, we had to shift our lens to make sure we were ready for that,” he said. “You could see a little of that when we were getting back here, doing the testing, doing some of the individual work. The good thing is that everyone got back here on Track 1 last Saturday, so we’ve been able to do group work and practice the last two days, which is why we get to take tomorrow off. We’ll try to be ready as quickly as we can. It won’t be a full team for that early part of the season, which is why it’s important that we find a few guys that can impact winning against the best of the best. It’s going to be quite a challenge, we’re looking forward to it – certainly we’re going to do everything we can and play our best as soon as possible.”

To complicate matters, Kemba Walker (knee) is out until January and Romeo Langford (wrist surgery) possibly as late as February.

Tristan Thompson, who pulled a hamstring in workouts just before joining the Celtics, will likely miss most of training camp, according to Stevens.

So imagine being one of the two rookies in camp, Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard.

“I think it’s definitely difficult because you got to come in, you gotta learn the playbook right away, you got to learn the defensive schemes,” said Pritchard, a young point guard whose shooting ability may earn some early minutes.


“But for me, experiencing what I went through in college and picking up things like that, so I just tried to pick up things right away,” he said. “Try to get the playbook down before practice started, defensive schemes and all that. So I kind of had my mind wrapped around it before we even started so it wasn’t just coming at me so fast. So I tried to get a head start on things and that’s how I try to approach it.”

Stevens can’t wait to see what happens with both rookies. Nesmith was considered the best pure shooter in the draft. He could find an early role on the wing.

“I think that’ll be interesting to follow across the league. I’ve been impressed in the first couple of days of work with our guys,” said Stevens. “But it’s a whole different thing once you get to the regular season.

“We see that all the time when, not only practice, but also some of the exhibition games, etc. I was telling our staff I’m not sure how many games our starters won the first two weeks when we were practicing in the bubble, starters vs. guys off the bench. Or top-seven minutes guys vs. everybody else. So I think there is a bit of a feeling-out process as you get back into this, especially so quickly. But I do think the rookies specifically, these two guys are sharp guys and they, I think they’ll adjust quicker, or as quickly as possible. But they don’t have the benefit of summer league. They don’t have the benefit of August and September when we can really spend time with them in small group work.”

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