OKLAHOMA CITY — The Celtics played Sunday as if everything was normal. Yet, just 24 hours prior, a large group of authorities were checking their team plane for explosives at the Will Rogers World Airport, and the shaken players and staff were told to leave their belongings on the plane and board a bus to the team hotel.
All was checked and all was cleared and the team had a game to play, but the players and coaches were reflective before taking the court Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. NBA players board hundreds of flights, and the reality of the bomb threat and being surrounded by the police, the fire department, and the FBI wasn’t lost on them.
“I was asleep, so when I woke up, I heard the lieutenant telling some of the players [what happened] and I was like, ‘Huh?’ ” swingman Gerald Green said. “We seen all them cop cars outside [the plane], I was, like, ‘This is for real.’ That was a weird situation, man. I am glad we handled it the way we handled it and everybody got here safe.
“All my years playing, I never even seen nothing like that, man.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he was informed by team travel and equipment manager John Connor about the bomb threat with about an hour left before landing in Oklahoma City. The players and many on the flight were not informed of the threat until the plane landed.
“Only a few of us knew,” Stevens said. “The staff on board was great about being reassuring about the checks they had made prior to leaving and swiftly looking without drawing much attention to themselves while we were in the air. Once we landed, we were greeted by a throng of police officers and fire trucks and we’re on the tarmac for a while there and went to the fire station and everybody was great.
“It was a unique experience because everybody is getting interviewed. Certainly, it’s not a very comfortable situation when you’re in the middle of the air, it’s sick that somebody would make that [bomb threat] call, but everybody we interacted with was terrific.”
Stevens was asked whether it was difficult not to share news of the bomb threat with the players while the plane was still in the air. The threat was initially called in to the Oklahoma City Police Department.
“I don’t know what the right answer is there,” he said. “You trust the people in the cockpit who got the call and the flight attendants who I believe made the suggestion to keep it as is. I’ve never been through it, so I wasn’t trained properly.”
Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko was on the flight with his family, including his infant daughter.
“It’s never fun, but luckily nothing happened and it was just some idiot who called in [the threat],” Jerebko said. “We barely knew what was going on until we landed. We seen all the police cars, fire trucks, and the FBI, it’s a different experience. We’re used to traveling. Sometimes you don’t get your bags or you stay on the runway, I don’t think it was messing with anybody’s rhythm.”
The Celtics did not practice Sunday morning, so the threat did not affect their preparation. And the incident was not even mentioned during the postgame session with the media after the 99-96 loss.
If not for the bomb threat, the central conversation surrounding Sunday’s game would have been the amazing season of guard Russell Westbrook, who entered the game with seven consecutive triple-doubles, the first since Michael Jordan in 1989 – and has 12 for the season. The Thunder are 27-3 in games where Westbrook notched a triple-double dating to the beginning of last season.
Westbrook’s triple-double streak was snapped but he still managed 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in 36 minutes. He also had seven turnovers.
“One of the things that I respect most about Russell Westbrook is his competitive fire,” Stevens said. “It’s nonstop. You can tell that it means something to him, his work ethic is really well known. The way that he plays the game is relentless. Generally I would say motor and toughness are two hard things to change.”
When asked if Westbrook could average a triple-double for an entire season, Stevens said: “I have no idea but I would say if anybody has a good shot at it, it’s him. It seems like a heck of a tall task for an 82-game schedule but again, what he’s doing is ridiculous.
“He’s good. He’s really good. I don’t know what else to say. The guy can play.”
No rush for Thomas
Stevens said he had not talked with Isaiah Thomas, who did not make the trip to Oklahoma City because of a strained groin. The team left open the possibility Thomas could join the team in San Antonio for Wednesday’s game against the Spurs. The Celtics fly into San Antonio Monday and are off before returning to practice Tuesday. Thomas said the team has been very cautious about not rushing him back from the injury for fear of re-aggravation . . . The Celtics were out-rebounded for the 18th time in 24 games, this time 49-40 as Joffrey Lauvergne grabbed eight in nearly 21 minutes while the Thunder added 14 second-chance points.