In a typical year, Celtics coach Brad Stevens spends March fine-tuning his team as it revs up for the playoffs. Now, with COVID-19 halting the NBA along with so many other industries, he is spending these days at home with his wife and two children, trying to stay prepared for a possible return while also understanding that basketball doesn’t matter very much right now.
He said the past two weeks, he has only stepped into his car to move it to a new parking spot. He goes for walks around his Wellesley neighborhood, and he and his wife Tracy mostly watch coronavirus news coverage after their two young children have gone to bed. But they are also not shielding them from the grim reality. On Friday morning, Stevens said he was preparing a PowerPoint presentation to show his children real examples of how this deadly virus is impacting the world.
“I think that we all have to be able to, as parents, look at it and say, ‘OK, this is how we provide comfort in these times,’” Stevens said. “But also … I want my kids to know that the people driving by our house, or you see on TV, that are wearing medical equipment, this is real and it’s real every minute of every day, and we need to do what we can to help them, and as a community be there for them.”
The Celtics’ practice facility has been shuttered, just like all the others around the league, but the team is doing what it can to both stay connected and stay prepared for a possible resumption of the season.
Stevens said that exercise bikes and weights have been shipped to the homes of many players, and they have access to virtual training sessions. The players and staff members have also been meeting multiple times per week on video conferences, partly to stay in contact about basketball, but mostly to help strengthen their bonds during this period of isolation.
“We’re like the rest of the world, that basketball has taken a far backseat,” Stevens said. “I think it’s more important right now that we’re a community of co-workers and a community of friends and people that care about each other that get online and make sure we’re all doing OK.”
Stevens said the guard Marcus Smart, who last week tested positive for coronavirus, remains symptom free and has “felt great.”
“I’ve checked in with him as everybody else has, very regularly,” he said. “I’ve seen him on [video] conference calls a few times and he seems to be doing really well. I’m proud of how he kind of took the initiative to tell people that he had it and that he felt good, and that he got online and just continued to ask people to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now.”
Stevens said there is still little clarity regarding when or if the NBA season will resume, adding that the league is “bouncing around a ton of scenarios.” He has spent the past few weeks completing his usual postseason evaluations. He studies film of opposing teams, dives into statistics, and completes deep evaluations of his own players.
If this season is never completed, he will at least have a head start on his offseason work. But if the games begin again, this extra intelligence could actually help as Boston tries to regroup for a playoff push.
After such a lengthy layoff, of course, teams would not be able to jump right into game action once they are summoned. Particularly with practice facilities shut down, Stevens said that teams would probably need a few weeks to get back into playing shape. He said there would not be a training camp learning curve, however, because these players have all been together since October and are intimately familiar with the system.
“But there’s no doubt that there would be a kind of getting in shape, re-acclimation phase that would have to be a part of that,” Stevens said.
While he is hopeful that the NBA will soon reopen its doors, he also knows that is not what is most important right now.
“My heart goes out to all the people,” he said. “We’re calling sitting at home an inconvenience. What a joke. There are so many people that are working so hard every day to try to help our communities and help the sick and putting their own selves at risk.”