(12:18) Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is our guest to talk about the latest rumors involving the case for the Bulls to trade Jimmy Butler, Jahlil Okafor still in the mix for the Celtics, and why Boston might want to continue to be patient with their rebuild towards a championship.
Sherrod and Kyle close things out by looking at what the rotation could be with Avery Bradley and Jaylen Brown back on the floor following the All-Star break. Will Jaylen continue to get more minutes? Could bradley see a decrease in playing time?
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter believes that most NBA players are eager for the season to restart this summer, but said he’s been told by a former teammate that at least one All-Star-caliber player in the Eastern Conference is leery of returning until a vaccine exists to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Click here to enter NBC Sports Boston’s Podcast Sweepstakes for your chance to win a desktop Bluetooth speaker/microphone!
"This is my ninth year in the league, I have so many friends on different teams, right? I was actually talking to one of my friends and he said — I’m not going to tell who or which team — but he said, ‘There's so many guys on our team, they're not going to play.' They’re actually in the Eastern Conference, they’re in a playoff spot, and they’re like superstars. Like, if I tell you who it is, you’d go crazy.
I just can’t tell you who that is. But they said, ‘Hey, we're not going to play.’ … Until they find a vaccine, until they find a cure, they’re not going to play.
Kanter didn’t reference whether if it was a former or current All-Star and he has deep ties throughout the league after stops with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Celtics. It’s also important to note that it’s secondhand information and might not definitively reflect whether that concerned star's feelings have changed more recently.
The NBA is still discussing potential return-to-action plans and has not formally outlined a restart plan or how it plans to ensure player safety, something that might diminish any concerns a player might have about a resumption in play. The NBA acknowledged last week that it had started exploratory talks with Disney World about a possible bubble scenario in Orlando.
What it does suggest is that at least a small percentage of NBA players have concerns about the health risks involved with a restart amid this pandemic. Kanter said that, if what he is being told is true, the names would surprise fans.
"I was shocked, though, by the players that didn’t want to play,” said Kanter. "If they don’t play, like, wow, those people are like All-Star players.”
One thing for the league to consider is how can they give the top seeds the advantage they deserve for having played so well during the regular season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks lead their respective conferences, but they will not enjoy the benefit of homecourt advantage if the season returns at one central location.
So, how can the league reward the higher-seeded teams? One option is allowing them to pick their playoff opponents. It would be a lot of fun and add some more drama/intensity to each series. Here's one format that NBC Sports' NBA insider Tom Haberstroh came up with in his latest column:
Reseed teams 1-through-16 (or 20 or 24) and let the higher-seeded teams (Nos. 1 through 8) choose their opponents in every round.
The No. 1 seed would choose its opponent from a pool of the bottom half of the playoff field (eight teams in a 16-team playoff or 10 if the league decides to expand to 20 teams). The No. 2 seed would choose from the remaining teams and so on. You could broadcast the selections -- call it Selection Saturday if the NCAA doesn’t have rights to that as well -- in real-time, just like the NBA did for the All-Star draft.
“I absolutely love the idea,” said one Western Conference GM. “I love it now and I loved it then in the G League.”
So, if teams could choose their opponents, who should the Boston Celtics (the No. 5 seed in a 1-16 re-seeded format) want to play in Round 1? Haberstroh went with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Celtics should be the loudest proponent of the pick-your-opponent format. If the league sticks with the traditional conference split for the playoffs, the third-seeded Celtics would, as of now, face the sixth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. In a 1-through-16 format, as of now, the fifth-seeded Celtics would face ... the 12th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. For a Celtics team that has lost three of the four games against Philly this season, that’d be a rough draw.
The Mavericks figure to be an easier foe than the Sixers. The Celtics have won both matchups against Dallas this season, but Luka Doncic only played in one of those tilts. Kristaps Porzingis, who was still taking occasional games off to manage his injury recovery from a torn ACL, is one of those players I worry about when it comes to the long layoff and accelerated training camp. In the end, as long as the Celtics don’t draw Philly, it should be seen as a win.
Porzingis also has struggled mightily versus the Celtics in his career. He's averaged just 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a disappointing 37.1 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from 3-point range in 12 career games against Boston.
And, of course, it would be awesome to see Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic -- two of the best young players in basketball -- going head-to-head in the playoffs.
We still don't know what format the NBA will use if it comes back this season, but there are many different scenarios to consider, and having teams pick their postseason opponents is among the most exciting of those options.