BOSTON (CBS) — It has been nearly three months since NBA players played in an actual game. It looks like the league will be back sometime in the near future, but given that long layoff, Celtics star Gordon Hayward has a warning for NBA fans.
Brace yourselves for some sloppy basketball.
The last time Hayward and his Celtics teammates played together was all the way back on March 10, a 114-111 victory to clinch their spot in the playoffs. The NBA suspended play a few days later due to the coronavirus outbreak, and teams haven’t been able to practice since.
In a chat with the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, Hayward said to get ready for some potentially comical basketball.
“If you go straight to the playoffs it will for sure be sloppy basketball,” said Hayward. “If you go straight to the playoffs you’re going to be risking injuries, too. It would literally be like having the playoffs at the beginning of the season, which from an entertainment standpoint, probably pretty entertaining because guys will still be trying to figure things out.”
Hayward said that “figuring things out” process usually takes the entire 82-game regular season, from players reaching peak form to coaches finding the right rotations.
Then again, watching the best players in the world chuck up airballs and throw passes into the fan-less stands would certainly have some entertainment value, and really, sloppy basketball is better than no basketball. Plus, seeing professionals look more like your average rec-league player would also make fans feel a little bit better about themselves.
But unfortunately for the NBA, those mishaps would likely come at the most important time of the season, as teams battle for a championship.
While some states have allowed teams to open their practice facilities, that is not the case for the Celtics and a handful of other teams that find themselves in hot spots of the pandemic. (The Celtics announced Friday that they will open the Auerbach Center for individual workouts on Monday.) And though some players have the luxury of having a full court at their home, others don’t even have hoops in their driveway. Add in that teammates are scattered around the country, and Hayward doesn’t think a short mini-camp would be enough time to prepare for playoff basketball.
“The further we get away from the season, it’s almost like everything that was accomplished in the regular season at this point is thrown out the window,” he said. “Everyone that was hurt will be back. During this season you find this rhythm, this groove that you get into because of running the same plays over, getting the same shots, learning about how you play with one another, the timing of when you’re going to be in and when you’re going to be subbed. All that stuff you have to figure out, and all that stuff happens at the beginning of the season. Now that we’ve taken such an extended break, it’s almost like you’re going to be starting over. That part of it will for sure be something everyone has to adjust to, and not being able to train the way I’ve wanted to, it will be interesting to see how they allow us to come back with the timing and all that.”
One benefit of the lengthy layoff is it has given injured players the chance to heal up their bumps and bruises from the 60-plus games they did play. For Boston, the hope is that Kemba Walker’s knee will be back to normal when play resumes,and Hayward said his ankle, which has acted up throughout the season, is feeling great at the moment.
That could give the Celtics the rare benefit of having a healthy — albeit a little rusty — squad for the playoffs.