Coronavirus: Celtics preparing for NBA season to return

By Sports Desk May 23, 2020

The Boston Celtics are working on the assumption that the NBA season will resume following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the team's executive director of performance Phil Coles.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, leading to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-20 NBA campaign in March, while the NHL and MLS seasons have also come to a halt – the start of the MLB term has been delayed, too.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the season will restart as NBA commissioner Adam Silver weighs up various options, including the league returning via two locations – Orlando and Las Vegas.

As the league tries to resume, Coles told Stats Perform: "There's lots of desire for the league to come back and there's lots of really intelligent people working their hardest to see if there's an opportunity for that to happen. Whether it does happen or not, it's not something I can comment on.

"We're working on the assumption that we will come back and if we don't, we will be better prepared when we go next time."

The coronavirus outbreak has proven challenging for teams, athletes and staff – NBA practice facilities have only started to re-open this month after the league had targeted no earlier than May 8 for franchises to return to their complexes.

Former San Antonio Spurs high-performance manager and Liverpool's ex-head of physical therapy Coles said: "We were in Milwaukee overnight waiting for a game when the news came through that the league was going to be suspended. We flew back that next day on our private plane and everyone has been completely isolated from each other ever since that point in time.

"There's been a lot of challenges as to how to communicate with each other, amongst the staff and players. We've overcome those as best we can and there's been some opportunities for us to spend time reviewing what we're doing – reviewing our processes and trying to improve for when we eventually get back and moving forward."

The Celtics (43-21) were playing well prior to the postponement – third in a crammed Eastern Conference, behind the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) and defending champions the Toronto Raptors (46-18).

"It's obviously frustrating but it's the same situation for everybody," Coles said. "We were having a very good season and when we come back, we will have to start again and try to get back to where we were. But we're in exactly the same boat as everyone else, so we have the same opportunity as we had then, and we will have the same opportunity when we come back."

Jayson Tatum had been at the forefront of Boston's impressive season, the All-Star averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Celtics to establish himself as one of the best players in the league.

"It's always great to see young players continue to improve," Australian Coles, who was handpicked to join Gregg Popovich's staff in San Antonio, added. "Like all great players, they have that mix of talent, drive and work ethic. He is a good example of that but there's lots of examples. It's a young squad in general and there's lots of good young players who work really hard and are all progressing.

"I'm new here, so I can't say I've followed his progression as closely as some of the other staff. But everyone in the club and in the city who supports the club are excited to see the development is there and see him really blossom into a superstar."

Amid uncertainty around the league, how long would it take for players to be ready to return to action?

Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul has previously said players would require at least four weeks of training to get into shape.

Coles added: "It will vary from individual to individual. Again, it's something the league and the players association will consider closely. It's something where everyone will be in the same boat. From our perspective, we will do the best we can with the timeframe we're given.

"What an ideal timeframe is, it's hard to say. It would be very individual. Some players would be in great shape and ready to go and others will need some more time to build up. And depending on what their role is in the team and the structure for if and when we come back, it will be different. Everyone is in the same boat, so I don't know that there needs to be an ideal timeframe, it just needs to be something that everyone is agreed upon."

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