TORONTO — As a rookie point guard for the Atlanta Hawks in 1983, Doc Rivers endured a month-long training camp with two-a-days. And while he didn’t play in all of them, the Hawks had eight preseason games.
These days, NBA teams endure training camps for a week, only practice once a day, and play from three to five preseason tilts. Monday’s preseason opener against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena is the first of four exhibitions for the Sixers.
“Five games, four games, three games, I actually think that’s the right number‚” Rivers, the second-year Sixers coach, said Monday. “I’m not really sure what the right number is, because every year it really depends on who your team is.
“But the week of camp is absurd to me. I think you should have more time. Two weeks would be great. No two-a-days, that’s fine.”
The coach believes more time in training camp would limit injuries during the season.
“I think health-wise it would be smarter if we had more time,” he said.
Sixers experience international travel’s new normal
As the Sixers found out, one has to go through the proper steps to get in and out of Canada.
They had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of Sunday’s trip to Toronto for Monday night’s game. In addition to going through customs, each person in the travel party had to show proof of a vaccination. They placed pertinent information on the ArriveCAN app for incoming travelers.
The Sixers repeated most of those steps in order to fly back to Philadelphia following the game. They didn’t have to take a second COVID test because they would have been in Canada fewer than 48 hours.
“I like what they are doing honestly,” Rivers said. “You have to do the app and all that stuff. Guys are pretty easy with it. A couple of guys went out to restaurants [Sunday night] and you had to show your [vaccination] card, and I’m all for it. I think everybody felt safe and it’s good.”
Back in the building
Monday marked the first game in Toronto since Feb. 28, 2020, before the NBA shut down a month later because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That season resumed in August 2020, at the NBA bubble in Kissimmee, Fla. But even after the bubble ended and other teams returned to their home cities, the Raptors played their home games last season in Tampa, Fla., because of COVID restrictions in Canada.
So this game will mark the first time the Raptors play in front of their home crowd in over a year. Around 10,000 fans are expected.
“I feel like I’m sucking up to Toronto right now,” Rivers said. ”I don’t want to say it, but I love the fans. They have this different, I don’t know, energy. You feel like it’s a hockey-type energy, like the crowd is into the game. I just love how they approach the games, I do.
“It’s nice coming back to fans, period, around the league. It’s nice being booed, hearing obscenities. But it is, honestly. It’s kind of a nice build [up] just to get back into the norm of life.”