INDIANAPOLIS — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he understands why the NBA is considering the possibility of playing games in empty gyms due to concerns about the coronavirus, but he doesn’t love the idea.
"Nobody wants to play without fans. That would be really too bad,” Stevens said from a dais inside the Pacers’ interview room Tuesday while adhering to the NBA’s new no-scrums/closed locker room policy due to concerns about spreading the virus.
Peppered with questions about the virus, Stevens tried to keep things light, but came back to being uneasy about playing without fans.
“Totally understand if those decisions are made; they’re made by people that are much more qualified than us to make them. My hope that would be, whatever hot mic they have isn’t right next to me, if we have no fans in the building, they pick up everything I’m saying.
Other than that — that would be my No. 1 concern after the fact that this thing is built on fans. This thing is built on people liking it and the reason why we’re all where we are and get a chance to do this for a living, and make a good living, is because people are interested in it. It’s counterintuitive not to have people in the stands. But that’s not, again — they’ll have to make the decision on what’s the best interest for everybody’s health.
The Celtics brought three players and Stevens to the interview room before their shootaround Tuesday, breaking from the normal procedure of interviews on the court or in the locker room.
Stevens said a member of Boston’s media relations staff spoke to players about the temporary policies before the shootaround but that the team hadn’t spoken formally about the subject beyond that — even if it’s top of mind for most.
"I mean, everybody’s talking about it. My son [Brady] got sent home from school last week,” Stevens noted after a Wellesley parent tested positive for the coronavirus. "I just think that stuff, that’s everywhere, everybody is dealing with it — obviously, as proactively as they can. [The team is] talking about finishing quarters better and all the stuff that we can control. I don’t know what else we can do.”
Celtics players said the coronavirus concerns haven't altered the way they prepare for games, but acknowledged the gravity of the situation.
"Nothing changed. I guess it’s just getting real serious,” said Kemba Walker. "I don’t know. It’s crazy. I don’t know what to say about it, to tell you the truth.”
Walker stressed that any downturn in fan interaction shouldn’t be misinterpreted.
"I think it’s a little tougher for us to kinda interact with the fans as much as we usually do,” said Walker. "Just really being cautious for the most part. I just hope the fans kinda understand what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to go about it. Not trying to be disrespectful but, at the end of the day, we have to look for our well-being.
"Autographs and pictures at this moment is probably going to be tough. I think everybody’s a little nervous about it. A lot of us are probably going to stay away from it as much as we can.”
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pacers-Celtics, which begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.