Just over a month ago, the news broke: Jazz player Rudy Gobert had been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Quickly, the sports world changed. The NBA was shut down.
This week should have marked the end of the regular season in the NBA. Instead, Jayson Tatum hasn’t picked up a basketball in a month. The Celtics are idle, like every team across the U.S., waiting until the public health crisis subsides enough for games to return.
There may be no games, but we’ve still got plenty to talk about. Celtics beat writer Adam Himmelsbach joined us to do just that on Thursday.
Here’s a playback of the chat. All questions are denoted in bold, and appear as they did in the live chat, unedited.
Himmelsbach: Hey what’s up, guys. I hope everyone is safe and healthy and staying socially distant. The sun has at least been out in Boston, so that’s been nice. So let’s talk! I’m here to answer your questions about the Celtics/NBA/journalism/quarantine or whatever, really. Fire away.
Are members of the Celtics media ever aware when the team rests a healthy player but lies about it and says he is injured?
This has been a tricky situation for the NBA in this new load management era. Most players are dealing with at least some minor bumps and bruises, so it’s pretty easy for a team to just say that an absence is related to one of them. But sometimes those bumps and bruises need some time to heal. The Celtics are usually somewhat transparent when a guy is getting a day to rest, even if unintentionally, but Brad Stevens prefers for that rest to come on practice days.
During these bizarre/scary times, wouldn’t it be uplifting for our region if Ainge signed Isaiah Thomas for the rest of the 19-20 season?
Isaiah Thomas’s run here was stirring and historic, and well before the COVID-19 crisis began I heard from a lot of fans who were hopeful that I.T., who is a free agent, would get one more shot in Boston. He’s certainly made it clear that he would be willing. The problem is that he is simply not the same player he was before he injured his hip. I’ve been told several times that the Celtics have no plans to bring him back. I’m rooting for Isaiah, though. He just turned 31 years old, so maybe there’s still time for him to regain some of his powers. Just don’t expect to see it in Boston.
How close were the Celtics to making a trade at the deadline? And if there were any deals in play, what were the holdups--Romeo, draft picks, Kanter?
Whenever the trade deadline passes without the Celtics making a move, I ask Danny Ainge how close they were to making a deal. And he always responds that he just doesn’t know, because there are two sides. He might think something is imminent while the other team is hardly even considering his proposal, and vice versa. Having said that, this felt like one of the least active recent trade deadlines for the Cs. For Boston, it’s partly because there were few obvious options because they have such a large gap in talent and contract size between their top and bottom players. Sure, maybe they could’ve given up some good picks for Davis Bertans, but then he would have played about 18 minutes per game on this roster and become an unrestricted free agent after.
Shooting hoops on a public hoop with no one else around: go, or no go?
I think this should definitely be a go. The problem is most of the hoops around Boston are now out of commission. And that’s understandable, because a one-person shootaround session would probably turn into something more pretty quickly. Maybe we should set something up where people can reserve a public court for themselves for 30 minutes per day?
What should my son do to become an nba writer
I think it’s important that their interests in journalism and writing are greater than their interest in the NBA. After that, the most important thing is to read as much as possible, and look to gain experience wherever possible. I’m not sure how old he is, but submit freelance proposals to media outlets, even if they have nothing to do with sports.
Assuming nothing changes, in the 2020 draft the Cs have 4 picks. I don’t see them needing (or having room for) another 4 young, unproven, non-lottery players. Are there viable options to package, perhaps with future picks or a veteran, to get some solid, reliable points off the bench?
You’re right, they won’t be adding four rookies to the roster next season. But I also didn’t think they’d bring in three new players last June, to be honest. Having two two-way contract slots certainly makes it easier to add players when you have a logjam of picks. Like always, the Celtics will aggressively look for creative ways to maneuver in this draft. They could package their three first-round picks to move up. They could draft a player or two to stash overseas. They could trade picks from this draft into a future draft to keep their collection of assets intact. They will consider possible deals for veterans, but they have plenty of options.
Do you see the Celtics winning Banner 18 in the next 3/4 years?
Tough question, because rosters will change so much over that time.
Why they can: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both just starting to enter their primes, and Kemba Walker still has good years left, and I think Gordon Hayward will ultimately end up staying with the Celtics.
Why they can't: The Warriors are about to add a top-five pick, or a really good player they acquired with that top-five pick, to Steph Curry/Klay Thompson/Draymond Green. Kevin Durant is going to be back. Giannis is still getting better. LeBron is a robot and has Anthony Davis on his side.
OK, having looked at the evidence, I’ll say no. But the best hope is for Tatum to continue his ascension and become one of the leagues top five players.
When games come back, do you think they’ll jump right into the playoffs? How would that affect the Celtics? Wouldn’t they need time to warm up? Jayson said he hasn’t been playing basketball at all.
Good question. Teams would need at least three weeks to rev back up at practice, because right now players are mostly in the same position as the rest of the country. The most they can do is ride their Pelotons and shoot on their personal hoops, if they even have them.
If the league resumes in some sort of closed setting--which is probably the only option--it would make the most sense to start with the playoffs, partly because that would save the 14 non-playoff teams from unnecessary basketball quarantine situations.
Ideally, teams would have a game or two to shake the rust off before jumping into postseason action, but the league could just have playoff teams play one or two exhibition games against each other. That seems to make more logistical sense than having the other 14 teams roll in for a few regular season games.
1. Post COVID how is a reporter’s tech going to change with your cell phones/recorders always in the face of an athlete + close confines of the locker room? 2. Have any GM’s expressed concern about players being in game-shape should the season resume?
Before the NBA shut down it instituted new rules that kept media at least six feet from players. I think when the nation's testing system revs up, it will make normalcy at least somewhat possible. But we're obviously a long way from that.
It will be interesting to see how technology is embraced in different ways when sports return, though. I could see more things like media Zoom calls with players and coaches popping up.
What is your assessment of the 5 rooks: Lankford, Williams, Edwards, Porier & Waters? Any of these guys have real a shot of being an impact player?
Some quick hits....
Langford: Still just 20 years old, and has shown promise defending top wings. Biggest upside of the group.
Williams: Strong and physical, and also has shown good defensive prowess. Needs to foul less and, like Langford, work on his shot.
Edwards: His confidence seemed a bit rattled as he disappeared from the rotation. He could eventually find a role as an off-the-bench shooter.
Waters: Probably the best 'basketball player' in the group. Understands and sees the game so well. His size is an issue.
Poirier: He has struggled in his limited chances. My guess is he’ll eventually end up back in Europe.
How does a shortened NCAA season with no tournament affect scouting for the draft and does this give the Celtics a better chance for a steal with their lower picks?
I wrote a bit about this a few weeks ago. The Celtics take great pride in scouting being a year-round focus for them. They have been watching each of this season’s draft prospects for years, and they never really get swayed much by an NCAA tournament performance. I think the slightly bigger issue for them, if it comes to it, will be the inability to conduct in-person workouts and interviews with prospects.
With news of Jalen Green skipping college for the G League, what do you think is the path forward for scouting players? Is that a good thing for NBA teams?
Green’s situation that was announced today is certainly intriguing. He’ll be paid over $500,000 to enter this new, selective G League-based program without dealing with the downsides of a G League player like long bus rides to nowhere. But I think players like Green will be high picks no matter where they play before the NBA, so it shouldn’t affect scouting all that much.
How did you handle this quarantine? Do you stay in Boston? Did you have chance to talk to Ainge to know their expectations for the remainder of the season? Do you think NBA will restart the season?
Yep, I've been in Boston ever since flying home from Milwaukee the day after the NBA shut down. I've only been to the grocery store, and on walks around my neighborhood or Castle Island. It's boring, but important!
I've spoken to a few people in the organization who have cautious optimism about a restart, but with an emphasis on cautious. No one knows what direction things will go, and there is a danger in believing that we're fine to just restart the NBA--even without fans--just because cases of COVID are decreasing.
Personally, I think the NBA will find a way to have the playoffs in some form. I also think it would be wiser to just cancel this season, hold the (virtual) draft in June, free agency in July and start preparing for training camps in the early fall.
Ok guys, that’s all for today. Thanks for checking in and be safe!