Rivers: Expect 'a lot of urgency early'

BOSTON -- Doc Rivers talked Friday about the approach he’ll take during the Celtics’ two exhibition games -- both against the Toronto Raptors, one this Sunday and the other on Wednesday -- explaining that he expects his starters will play more preseason minutes this year than they have in the past.

“One good thing about preseason this year ... is that I think guys will play [in the exhibition games],” Rivers said. “Usually you play [an eight-man rotation] and you play a guy a quarter, but I think [this year] guys are gonna play, and they may play normal minutes. So if there is one good thing to this shortened [camp], that may be it, scouting-wise.”

“I don’t know about extended [minutes], because right now after four minutes it’s extended for everybody, because their lungs will be shot," added Rivers. "But we’re gonna play them decent minutes early on, first half for sure.”

Rivers said that due to the shortened training camp, he’s already begun preparing for the season opener against the Knicks on Christmas Day.

“Oh, we’re [already] doing that,” Rivers said. “The way we look at it is, since we don’t have a lot of time on ourselves, we should work on [the Knicks] too, so at least we’ll be ready for that part of it, mentally. We would’ve never gone into it this early in a normal camp situation, but now it just gives us a chance to do something right.”

Rivers said that aside from injuries to Paul Pierce (sore right heel) and Rajon Rondo (ankle sprain), he’s happy with the way his players are progressing given the compact schedule.

“It’s amazing how quickly [Kevin Garnett has gotten into a rhythm],” Rivers said. “He usually has pretty poor camps to begin with -- he plays hard, but not well. And now you can see his timing is back early, so that’s good.”

League-wide, Rivers said, he foresees a lingering lockout hangover when the regular season starts -- similar to that of the early NFL season -- but he also expects that players will quickly round into shape.

“I think you’ll see a 6 or 7 early, and then it’ll get to a 10,” Rivers said when asked to predict the early-season level of play on a 1-10 scale. “There’s a lot of talent in the league, and a lot of good teams. The good thing is there will be a lot of urgency early. [With] 66 [games], you can’t fall behind and then think, ‘Oh, we’ll catch them in the second half of the season.’ Because there is no second half. So I think you’ll see urgency early.”

Still, Rivers stressed that the condensed camp has had its pitfalls.

“We were gonna put a semi-new system in and we vacated that a while ago,” he said. “We just knew you’re not gonna put in something new and then try to get it [going] in 20 days and then run it. So I think you’ll see a lot of [similarities] system-wise, even though player-wise it’ll be different. It’s a good idea to watch what [other NBA] coaches have done in the past, because that’s probably what they’re gonna do.

“We’re just gonna read [the situation as we go],” the Celtics coach added. “There’s really no science to this right now.”