The first time the 2019-20 Celtics were together as a team was last Sept. 30 at the High Output Studios in Canton.
They went through the annual media day routine, making the rounds for interviews, photo ops and promotional videos.
It is now September again, and nearly one full year later, the Celtics are still working in the 2019-20 season.
The COVID-19 pandemic that put NBA games on hold from early March until late July has resulted in one long season.
“We laugh with some of our rookies that they’ve now been rookies for over a year from a time a lot of them came to Boston and started working out,” joked coach Brad Stevens, whose team played Game 2 of a second-round series against the Toronto Raptors Tuesday. “That (stinks) for them, but eventually they’ll become second-year players, I guess.”
At this time last year, those rookies, including Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Vincent Poirier, Javonte Green plus two-way players Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters were prepping for their first training camp.
For other players, like Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis (playing for Germany) and Poirier (representing France), their offseason was cut short last summer since they participated in the FIBA World Cup.
They were practicing with their respective teams through August, then traveled to China for the tournament. The United States team, with Walker, Tatum, Smart and Brown, opened the World Cup last Sept. 1 with a win over the Czech Republic.
Not long after the World Cup ended for those six players, they were at the Celtics’ training facility with the first practice taking place on Oct. 1.
Then came the break in the action in March with the Celtics and the rest of the NBA going four-plus months without a game. Now, they have been inside the Disney World bubble for eight weeks.
“To have that four months in between us stopping and then resuming in July, you never really stopped,” said coach Brad Stevens. “You were just kind of on call in trying to stay a week away from your best shape, was the way we always talked about it.
“You’re doing virtual workouts with your strength and conditioning coaches and everything else and not ever really getting away. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve tried to make this as enjoyable as we can.
“When we get out on the court together again, try to play with great intentions. Don’t expect perfection of each other, just make sure that we’re doing everything we can to have fun playing this game because it has been a lot of months in a row.”
Remembering coach Thompson
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, who died this week at the age of 78, had a couple of New England ties.
He was a backup to Bill Russell when the Celtics won NBA championships in 1965 and 1966, averaging 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 74 games. Thompson, a third-round pick in 1964, became a high school coach in Washington, D.C., after his brief stop with the Celtics.
Thompson is one of seven players in Providence College history to record at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, getting 1,520 points and 1,061 for the Friars in a career that ended in 1964.
Stevens did not coach against Thompson but he did go against Thompson’s son, John Thompson III, when Butler played Georgetown.
“His impact is enormous on basketball, on sports, on community,” said Stevens. “He was a big, big icon in basketball.
“I met him maybe on an occasion or two, but I know (his son) pretty well. Our heartfelt condolences certainly go out to him and his family and Patrick (Ewing) and everybody at Georgetown now.”
Said Walker of Thompson: “He’s a guy you have to appreciate especially for me and other young Black African-Americans. He’s the one who paved the way for so many of us.”
Walker is fine
Walker, who has been dealing with a sore left knee, tweaked the knee while defending Pascal Siakam on a first-half drive on Sunday. But Walker, who took part in a brief practice Monday, said there was no problem with the knee.
“I feel good,” said Walker. “I tweaked it a little bit, but it’s the nature of the game. It happens. For the moment it bothered a little bit, but my adrenaline was pumping. It felt sore (Sunday) night but I got some treatment. I’m doing everything I can to stay on top of it.”
Gordon Hayward suffered a severe right ankle sprain on Aug. 17 in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, just over two weeks ago. He will be sidelined at least two more weeks, keeping Hayward out of the series with the Raptors.
“Rehab seems to be going OK,” said Stevens. “He feels a little bit better. I don’t think his gait is perfect yet. Once his gait feels right, becomes perfect, he’s probably on a quicker course to coming back. I think he’ll rejoin us in the bubble at some point soon, but he still will be some time away when he does do that.”
After an early start (5:30 p.m.) on Tuesday, the next three games between the Celtics and Raptors are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Monday nights.
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