Celtics

Celtics Talk Podcast: MacMullan, Mannix, Maxwell and Goodman react to NBA suspending the season

Celtics Talk Podcast: MacMullan, Mannix, Maxwell and Goodman react to NBA suspending the season

The NBA made the stunning -- though necessary -- decision Wednesday to suspend the season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The league's decision came shortly after one of its players, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, tested positive for coronavirus. It was learned Thursday that Gobert's teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive.

Several sports leagues have followed suit in suspending operations, including MLB and NHL. NCAA canceled all of its winter and spring championships, including both men's and women's Division I tournaments.

On this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, some of the biggest names in basketball sports media shared their thoughts on how the NBA is handling the coronavirus, and what’s ahead for the league.

ESPN's Jackie MacMullan explained how this was the "worst-case scenario for the NBA," and Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix said there "isn't a lot of optimism" around the league that this NBA season will resume.

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The Boston Celtics are one of the teams that will have to self-quarantine as they played against Gobert and the Jazz twice in the last three weeks (Feb. 26 and March 6).

C's great Cedric Maxwell, who travels with the team as a radio broadcaster, shared his immediate reaction to the unsettling news.

I was very serious about it. I mean, I was thinking about what happened in Italy where they were quarantining 12 million people and then New Rochelle, New York. And, you know, self-quarantine areas there. So, it definitely concerned me ... 

I don't even know what suspending the season means, if it's going to stop now and continue in a month from now with the playoffs or what, but this possibly the craziest thing that's happened to me since I've been in the NBA.

College basketball analyst Jeff Goodman also joined the show discussing how the NCAA could cancel its Division I tournaments altogether, which has since become a reality.

To hear more about what MacMullan, Mannix, Maxwell, and Goodman have to say on the NBA's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, check out this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, available on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network and YouTube.

2020 NBA restart: It's OK for players to vocalize bubble concerns

2020 NBA restart: It's OK for players to vocalize bubble concerns

Even after Jayson Tatum very eloquently detailed his apprehensions about entering the bubble, there are some who continue to roll their eyes whenever a player expresses even the tiniest bit of concern about their sport’s resumption of play.

Listening to Boston Celtics players explain their various issues over the past week, I found it refreshing. I found it human. These players are leaving their families and risking their safety to bring us a tiny slice of normalcy with the return of pro sports.

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Yes, most are handsomely compensated — but they are also being thrust into an unprecedented situation with restraints they never signed up for, all largely for our entertainment.

What’s more, most recognize this. Tatum admitted it would be callous of him to sit out the restart solely in fear of compromising future earnings at a time when unemployment numbers are so outrageously high.

But if players want to vocalize their concerns — big and small — I’m all ears. There is no playbook for what players are about to endure inside this bubble and how they handle it all is a big part of the story.

When Tatum bemoans being apart from his 2 ½-year old son for as much as three months, I get it. FaceTime and Zoom make the world smaller but they are not substitutes for daily interaction between child and parent. When Gordon Hayward is adamant he will depart the bubble, and deal with the obstacles of reentering, to be there for the birth of his first son, I get it.

Life events, particularly those that could not have reasonably been expected to interfere with one’s work schedule, should not be ignored because it might temporarily hinder a team’s quest for a trophy.

At a time when all of our lives have already been altered, players are being asked to sacrifice even more of their typical freedoms.

It’s fair for them to be skeptical. It’s fair for them to voice concerns, even if others don’t believe they are as much of a hindrance as that player might be suggesting. We’d go so far as to suggest it would be weird if players didn’t have concerns about how this is all going to work, or offer emotional reactions to the infancy of their bubble stay.

We’re guessing many of the anxieties and inconveniences will likely dissipate as players settle into the bubble. Eventually, the return of games and competition should offer a much-needed jolt of normalcy in an otherwise bizarre living situation.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Tatum be a title team's best player? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

If a player expressing their concern somehow diminishes your excitement for what’s ahead, I’m not sure what to tell you. To expect robot-like enthusiasm from athletes is misguided. To fret that players might vocalize genuine human emotion instead of simply reciting boring sports clichés flies counter to what we constantly yearn from our athletes.

There is a delicate line to walk. And players bemoaning 5-star hotels and pre-packaged meals won’t sit well in all corners. But I don’t mind the glimpse it offers if a player wants to share his knee-jerk reaction.

The guess here is that when Celtics players put on their uniforms and see the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo on the other side of the floor, competition will take center stage and the NBA will deliver a product much like the one we’ve yearned for since everything paused in March.

Sure, it's fair to wonder how the early scrimmages and seeding games will look, as each team will have different motivations in the ramp-up to the postseason, but the playoffs should have much of the excitement that we’re used to from those games. Let the famed Dream Team scrimmage be a prime example of how the absence of a crowd doesn’t always affect the intensity on the court.

This is all wildly unique. If being away from his son affects Tatum’s play, I want to hear about it. If Jaylen Brown worries that the return of games stunts the momentum of the social justice movement, I want to hear him vocalize that.

The human element is a major storyline to this wild experience.

2020 NBA restart: Top 22 players headed to the Orlando bubble

2020 NBA restart: Top 22 players headed to the Orlando bubble

With players already filing into the Disney World Bubble for the NBA to resume this season, the league’s restart has a much more realistic feel to it now.

As much as attention will be paid to the 22 teams on site, the league’s restart will be no different than any stretch of the season when it comes to what matters most — the players. 

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And while some players have decided to not participate in the league’s restart for health concerns or to continue to stand up and speak out on societal issues that have taken center stage in recent weeks, the overwhelming majority of the league’s star power will be back on the court in the coming weeks. 

But because the league return will only consist of players from the top 22 teams, any kind of power rankings of the top players should be limited to — you guessed it — the top 22 players. 

Here’s a glimpse at the top players in the NBA who are part of the league’s return to play which will officially kick off later this month.

Click here for the gallery.