The Boston Celtics remain undermanned for tonight’s game at Charlotte.
But it appears as though the team’s depth will be replenished sooner than expected.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said both Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) have not been ruled out for Sunday’s game against San Antonio.
Prior to tonight’s game against Charlotte, Stevens said reports he has heard about both players are “really encouraging.”
Baynes was with the team, but flew back to Boston to meet with a foot specialist.
“He can play sooner than we thought which is encouraging,” said Stevens who was told Baynes had a Grade-2 sprain which typically takes close to a month to heal.
Baynes suffered a left ankle sprain in the first half of Boston’s 118-115 loss at Philadelphia earlier this week.
The 6-foot-10 big man has missed a total of 29 games this season with Boston posting a 16-13 record in his absence.
Hayward is in the NBA’s concussion protocol program after taking a hard shoulder from Atlanta’s John Collins on March 16, with tonight’s game against the Hornets being the third straight Hayward will miss.
As for Hayward’s return, Stevens said, “Gordon is right around the corner.”
Stevens added, “I would not rule either of them out (for Sunday against San Antonio) based on what I’ve heard.”
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On Thursday, the NBA took another step toward figuring out the best way to return to action.
Commissioner Adam Silver held a conference call with the league's general managers to review a survey that was delivered to teams last week. In the survey, GMs voted on potential formats to resume play.
General managers were surveyed about a 'playoffs-plus' format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.
Although many GMs are in favor of the play-in tournament, that doesn't mean the league will go in that direction.
“Adam [Silver] isn’t taking the results seriously,” a team executive told O'Connor. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”
Still, it's a noteworthy development and one that could not only impact how the NBA proceeds with its 2019-20 campaign, but also how it approaches future playoff formats.
The Boston Celtics hosting a playoff game in an empty arena would be a bizarre experience.
Take it from the guy who's played in front of empty arenas.
Celtics big man Daniel Theis played several years of professional basketball in his native Germany before joining the C's in 2017. On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics At Home," Theis explained that preseason games often didn't have fans, which created an atmosphere he didn't exactly enjoy.
"It's definitely weird just thinking about it," Theis told host Brian Scalabrine. "Thinking back for me, playing in Germany in preseason games when you have scrimmages and no fans in there. You hear every voice, every word, every step. It's annoying."
Games without fans could be the NBA's new reality as it aims to safely resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Germany's top soccer league, the Bundesliga -- which Theis has been following intently -- is already playing games in empty arenas.
But while Theis wants to get back on the court, he doesn't sound thrilled about playing games without fans again -- especially if that means losing the home-crowd advantage that Boston provides.
"When I watched the soccer games this weekend, it was just -- it didn't feel right," Theis said. "Especially in Boston, when it comes to the playoffs and the fans at TD Garden are so important and so loud ... Then I can imagine now just playing a playoff game with nobody in there, it feels probably like a practice game or scrimmage."
Theis also discussed some of the Celtics' best Zoom guest speakers during Episode Three of "Celtics At Home," which includes guest appearances from C's legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Walton.