The Celtics, one of the latest NBA teams to be hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, signed veteran forward Justin Jackson via the hardship exception on Saturday. He was available to face the Knicks.
Jackson averaged 6.6 points and 2.5 rebounds over four seasons with the Kings, Mavericks, Thunder, and Bucks. This year he is averaging 22.7 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 41.4 percent from the 3-point line for the G League’s Texas Legends.
Celtics Al Horford, Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and two-way contract players Sam Hauser and Brodric Thomas are all in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Also, guard Dennis Schröder remains out due to a non-COVID illness, and Romeo Langford missed Saturday’s game because of a neck injury he suffered Friday.
The hardship exception allows teams to go over the 15-player roster limit if they have at least four players who will miss at least three games. Coach Ime Udoka said Saturday night that there is a chance Boston could look to add one more player in the coming days.
“It kind of is what it is,” Udoka said. “It’s a situation where you’re hit harder than others are around the league and you’re just hoping it stays at that, knowing there’s a possibility that there’s more to come, which we had today. And so, like I said, we have enough whether it’s 11 guys, 10 one night, and hopefully we’ll get Dennis and some guys back from the non-COVID illnesses that can come back sooner.”
Second-year wing Aaron Nesmith received his first start of the season for the Celtics. After surging in the second half of the season as a rookie last year, Nesmith has mostly struggled in limited action this season.
But Udoka is hopeful that perhaps the enhanced opportunity amid all of these absences will have benefits down the road.
“Sometimes all that is needed are minutes and consistency,” Udoka said. “When we have Dennis playing or Josh [Richardson] playing, they’re playing very well, Grant as well, and so those minutes are going to be harder to come by and for him to get in a rhythm. It’s not going to be the same opportunity there. So this kind of forces that situation, and we’ve seen him at times last year, as well as summer league, and even in games this year when Josh was out in Miami, going off on a streak…Getting two in a row now is more of an opportunity for him and we hope he takes advantage of it.”
Langford was fouled in the head area by Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins in the first quarter of Boston’s loss on Friday night. He left the game due to neck pain and did not return. Although he was ruled out Saturday, Udoka said he passed concussion tests and the team does not believe that he will be sidelined for an extended period.
“Took that hard hit and has quite a bit of soreness in his neck, stiffness and just won’t be available tonight,” Udoka said. “But don’t think it’s anything long term past another day or two.”