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On March 10, the Celtics beat the Pacers in Indiana, to improve their record to 43-21. We didn’t know it then, but it would be exactly four months until the Cs would take the court together again. That day was yesterday.
The great NBA bubble experiment has begun. By all accounts, the Celtics had a good opening session.
The solid start was important, as some of the fellas needed reassurance.
“It’s a lot of nerves,” Brown said. “A lot of people are away from their families, away from their kids, away from their grandparents or their loved ones. A lot of people were nervous, including myself, coming down here. Unsure, maybe, of the long-term effects of some of the COVID-related things. But we think the NBA is going to do a good job of keeping us safe. Nonetheless, there was a lot of nerves, and there still is. As we get more comfortable, get our routine, some of those nerves may go away, or they may not.”
However, being inside the lines, 94 by 50 feet, made everything better.
“I think the only thing we were concerned about is getting our rhythm back,” said Semi Ojeleye. “Guys were just talking about ‘the game seems fast’ or ‘my shot feels different’. Once we were out on the court, we took the masks off, basketball was really the only thing we were thinking about.
“At the end of the day, we get to play basketball. That’s what we love to do,” he said. “When it boils down to it, that’s what we love, I think that’s why we are here, and along with that we get to speak about what’s going on in the world. The social injustice that’s going on, we get to have a platform for that. We get to put people’s minds at ease about living in a world with the virus that is still out there. So we’re trying to do all those things while doing what we love, so the best thing we can do is try to be a good example in every way we can, regardless of circumstances.”
The only note of caution was about their point guard.
The Boston Celtics hit the practice court Friday afternoon for their first true, full practice since the NBA shut down in March because of the coronavirus.
“We had a lot of guys with a lot of great energy, a lot of the young guys had a lot of high energy,” Jaylen Brown said after the practice. “I think we’re ready. We’re looking forward to getting things started, getting things going.” […]
For the Celtics, one of those challenges is making sure their All-Star point guard, Kemba Walker, stays healthy for Boston’s entire run inside the Walt Disney World bubble.
“We’re going to move very slowly with Kemba Walker,” Brad Stevens told reporters after practice. ”Let him strengthen and make sure that he’s all good to go when we enter the seeding games and then obviously into the playoffs.”
Walker missed 14 games this season, mostly with soreness in his left knee.
For the past several weeks, as the bubble plan took shape, there were days when it seemed like the NBA would never play again, and other days of optimism that having the playoffs was just a matter of time. Yesterday was one of the good days.
While hopes remain high, we have to be realistic. The bubble is a huge crap shoot. Let’s see what happens over the next week before we decide whether this is real or an illusion.
Related – NBC Sports Boston: Jayson Tatum’s talent, Jaylen Brown’s bulk amaze Celtics teammate Enes Kanter | USA Today: Boston Celtics, other ‘bubble’ teams have options for down time | A look at how Disney ‘bubble’ security works for Celtics, other teams | The Athletic: Six takeaways from Celtics’ opening practice, where Kemba Walker is held back
On Page 2: Jaylen focused inside the bubble
“For me, I’m just trying to find a routine to just pass the time. I’m not trying to be on social media. I deactivated my Instagram account, not because I feel like it is a distraction. But until I get a routine, I want to not pick up bad habits and things like that.”
Brown said he wants to maximize what he’s able to do inside the bubble, particularly beyond the basketball court.
“I feel like we’re down here with a purpose,” said Brown. “I want to educate myself. Spend time doing research, spend time talking to my teammates or other people in the NBA trying to figure out how we can all come together and use our time to divert our attention to things outside of basketball. While we’re down here, we got nothing but time. So I’m trying to make myself available to any players that are around and might have questions or anything they want to build off of, and also my teammates as well. So we can figure out ways to put our heads together and be a part of change.”
Social media is an easy way to lose a few hours, as anybody with a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account can attest. For Brown, who has repeatedly expressed a desire to make sure the NBA’s restart doesn’t distract from the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation, focus will be key.
You probably knew this: Jaylen Brown is a serious person. He’s been a guest speaker at Harvard; he’s a vice president of the NBA Players Association; and in May the Georgia native drove 15 hours to lead a peaceful protest march in Atlanta.
So it’s no surprise that JB intends to make the best use of his time in NBA isolation. And he also sounds ready to get the job done on the court.
“We’re looking forward to getting things started, getting things going. Like I said, we’re on a mission, all of us here. We understand we don’t want to do too much complaining about other stuff. We want to focus on what we can control and divert most of our energy to while we’re here. Being on this team has been great. I think we’re all excited as to what the future entails.”
He and his teammates seem to agree on rolling with life inside the bubble.
It’s a credit to the team that they understand the perspective of fans such as this random tweeter.
Some players don’t get it though.
This is classic Rondo. Maybe he and his Lakers teammates will get to go home early. Everyone in favor?
And, finally… Duke steals Celtics coach!
Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson is close to finalizing a deal to become the head coach of Duke’s women’s basketball team, a league source confirmed on Friday.
Lawson did not respond to a text message. Celtics coach Brad Stevens declined to comment on the report, but indicated he would be able to soon.
“I mean, everybody knows what I think of Kara,” Stevens said. “She’s unbelievable. When I can comment on it, I will.”
A popular, enduring rumor in basketball circles is that, someday, the Celtics will lose their coach to a high-profile college program, most likely Duke University – arguably the most prestigious coaching gig in the NCAA. And now it’s happening.
Fortunately, it’s not Brad Stevens leaving, but Kara Lawson, hired last summer as the first female coach in Celtics history. Kara has received nothing but praise during her Boston tenure, and she is no doubt deserving of this opportunity. No word yet on when she’s leaving; if it’s soon, Brad will just have to make do with his remaining five assistants.