The calendar notification hit like a stomach punch.
Celtics at Bucks. Today at 8 p.m.
There was no Celtics game on Thursday night, of course, and there won’t be for at least another month.
That meant no familiar Twitter antics. No digs about the Boston bench and debates about the merit of Brad Wanamaker. No outrage at Gordon Hayward’s unselfishness or Marcus Smart’s shot selection. No concerns about the state of Kemba Walker’s sore knee. No jokes about Jayson Tatum still being 19 years old. No Daniel Theis seal memes flopping all over social media.
And, man, did we miss all of it.
An 82-game schedule can seem like a grind when you’re in the thick of it. Thursday was a reminder of just how much we take it for granted.
NBC Sports Boston colleague Ryan LaMarca and I spent Wednesday in Brownsburg, Indiana gathering content for our planned Gordon Hayward Day. Energized by a series of interviews with coaches, teammates, and friends from Hayward’s past, we raced to the airport to catch evening flights. The looming Celtics-Bucks matchup was all the motivation needed to grind through the connecting flight through Chicago that awaited.
But right after they closed the boarding door in Chicago, and before we even pushed back at O’Hare, the email arrived announcing the NBA had suspended its 2019-20 season. The rest of the major sports leagues followed suit over the next 24 hours. Now, we are staring at the prospects of a month with little more than NFL free agency to satiate our sports thirst.
Make no mistake, the NBA absolutely made the right decision to pause after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. But, particularly in these uncertain times, as we all try to comprehend and combat this frightening pandemic, it only accentuates the absence of sports and the much-needed diversion they provide.
Now it seems somewhat trivial how much time we’ve spent analyzing whether Boston should have made a move to shore up its bench. The health of Boston’s top rotation players doesn’t seem nearly as important as the well-being of those currently affected by the coronavirus.
Instead of that showdown with the Bucks, the Celtics caught a late morning flight back to Boston on Thursday. A couple of players were photographed disembarking the plane with makeshift masks over their faces, an abundance of caution displayed given two recent matchups against the Jazz.
The Celtics released a statement Wednesday afternoon noting that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health determined that none of the team's players likely came in contact with the two affected Jazz players while they were contagious. Still, the team asked players to quarantine this weekend. Players and personnel will be tested for the coronavirus during that stretch as well.
Unfortunately, what comes next is uncertain. Commissioner Adam Silver admitted as much during an appearance on TNT’s game-less pregame show. There is hope that the league can explore a return to action in a month; the 2019-20 season could also not see another game played. It’s much too early to know how it will all play out.
It’s too bad because these Celtics have been a lot of fun to watch. They were an ideal palette-cleanser to what we slogged through last year, even as some old habits seeped back in during a rare recent rough patch. A handful of blown double-digit leads doesn’t seem so catastrophic now. But that those lapses provoke such emotion from fans only speaks to how important these games and these teams are to us. It’s what makes sports so great.
The whole “don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” certainly applies here. Let’s hope the elimination of large gatherings can help contain this contagion and bring sports back quicker than they may have otherwise.
Until then, though, we're going to silence these NBA calendar alerts.