Soon after the Boston Celtics traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett back in 2007, their completely revamped roster packed a plane and headed overseas for a preseason trip.
Less than nine months later, a cohesive and talented veteran unit was back in the states, fresh off an impressive 66-win season, celebrating their first and only championship together on the Garden floor.
In the aftermath of that emotional title, many of the central figures, particularly Garnett and coach Doc Rivers, pointed back to that preseason trip as the reason their roster full of first-year Celtics came together so quick.
“Their cellphones didn't work, so they actually had to talk to each other on the bus,” Rivers joked to reporters about the trip.
It's a history lesson the Thunder can learn from this week.
OKC's players, coaches and support staff left for Turkey on Wednesday afternoon, not scheduled to return to Oklahoma City until next Wednesday, with two games and a stop in Manchester in between.
This isn't a team filled with newcomers, like that 2007 Celtics bunch. Quite the opposite, actually, with 12 players returning from last year's Thunder squad.
But it's the first time this franchise has ventured overseas for a preseason trip since relocating to OKC. And it provides a unique opportunity to immediately bond.
“We handle our business on the floor, we come to work every single day, no matter where we are,” Kevin Durant said. “But being in another country, we know nothing about Istanbul, we don't know the people, we don't know the language, so we'll have to rely on each other. And I'm looking forward to that.”
Derek Fisher, a 17-year veteran who has experienced just about everything in this game, admitted the trip can be “disruptive” from a training standpoint, but invaluable for team chemistry.
“You immediately get time together as just a small group of people and you immediately go into the bunker as basketball players, coaches and training staff and that's it,” Fisher said. “So right from the beginning of the season, you walk right into the bunker and you don't have to come out once you get back from Europe.”
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