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For Celtics, camp doors open today

Camping season officially starts today in the NBA, at least for players with less than four years experience. The Celtics will welcome rookies Marcus Banks, Kendrick Perkins, and Brandon Hunter, as well as veterans Kedrick Brown, Mark Blount, and Mike James. For the sake of competition, the six Celtics under contract will be joined by several other players. Chuck Eidson, Ray Young, Eddie Elisma, Rick Anderson, Wake Forest's Rusty LaRue, and Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves are expected to report to Celtics training camp today in Waltham. After taking physicals and attending team meetings today, practices will begin tomorrow.

"Training camp, with the younger players, the coaches get a feel for them and what they can trust them with," said Danny Ainge, director of basketball operations. "They see their strengths and weaknesses. They see them play under the lights, against NBA competition in exhibition games. The players learn the coaches and the difficulty of the competition both in training camp and in exhibition games.

"I hope that we are in great shape, we're healthy, coming out of training camp. For us specifically, I hope that we are improved in our conditioning because with conditioning you get better shots, you play better defense. And mental conditioning, I believe players believe they deserve success the harder they work. I think it all starts from that commitment. The rest takes care of itself."

Players with at least four years of NBA experience cannot report to camp until Thursday. Full squad workouts start Friday. Two-a-days are permitted until Boston plays its first exhibition game Oct. 8 against Detroit at Uncasville, Conn. The new training camp policies were agreed upon by the players and owners last February in exchange for extending the first round of the playoffs to a best-of-seven series.

Ainge called the new scheduling "a hindrance." He wants an intense, competitive training camp with players fighting for playing time, something that cannot happen until everyone arrives. But the good news for Boston, Ainge says, is that he feels the players took their offseason strength and conditioning programs seriously. The Celtics practice facility was filled with a rotating roster of players throughout September, getting in shape. "The attitude seems very good and all the guys have been conditioning," said Ainge. "We have sent coaches and I myself have gone out and visited with the players. Conditioning has been an emphasis since the end of the season, so I do believe the team is very well conditioned."

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