Celtics

Former teammate tells Enes Kanter one NBA All-Star not eager to return

Former teammate tells Enes Kanter one NBA All-Star not eager to return

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.

“A lot of the players, especially on our [Celtics] team, yes, they do want to get back. They're itching to go out there and play basketball,” Kanter said on this week’s “The Enes Kanter Show” on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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.

Click here to listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show Podcast:

 

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.”

2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

By this time three weeks from now, the Boston Celtics will be back on the court playing other NBA teams.

The Celtics' first game of the 2020 NBA season restart isn't until July 31, but they'll start warming up a week earlier with three scrimmage games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Here's Boston's three-game scrimmage schedule in the bubble:

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Friday, July 24
Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5 p.m. ET)

Sunday, July 26
Celtics vs. Phoenix Suns (1:30 p.m. ET)

Tuesday, July 28
Celtics vs. Houston Rockets (8 p.m. ET)

The C's face three Western Conference opponents who aren't on their eight-game "seeding round" slate. Their final tune-up against James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Rockets should be entertaining, although it's possible each team's starters play limited minutes as squads shake off the rust.

The NBA plans to release "potential" broadcast details at a later date, so it's unclear whether any of these games will be televised.

The Celtics began official practices July 1 and are set to travel to Orlando between July 7 and 9, where they'll join 21 other teams in the "bubble." Boston is the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and could be a legitimate championship contender.

Check out the Celtics' eight-game seeding schedule below:

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

It was three years ago that the fireworks that Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck had previously talked about (and we absolutely loved to talk about over and over and over again), actually came to fruition for the Celtics. 

That's when Boston did what no Celtics team under Danny Ainge’s watch had ever done. 

They went out and signed an All-Star free agent, then-27-year-old Gordon Hayward, who was still in his prime as a player. 

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

“I can’t believe it’s been three years already, to be honest,” Hayward said during a teleconference call with reporters on Friday. “A lot has happened for me, for my family.”

It is impossible to look at the Hayward narrative in Boston without delving into the gruesome left leg injury he suffered just five minutes into this first game as a Boston Celtic. 

Once he was cleared to resume playing, there was the usual rust associated with a long layover. But more than the time off, Hayward had hurdles to clear beyond being physically able to return to play. 

For most of his career, Hayward leaned on his basketball instincts when it came to making plays at both ends of the floor. 

The injury changed that. 

Hayward had developed the kind of muscle memory with his game that allowed him to ascend to an All-Star level while in Utah, with play that on many nights looked seemingly effortless. The injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the 2017-2018 season, forced him to work at bridging the divide that now existed between his mind and body as far as what he was capable of doing on the court.

It wasn’t all that surprising that it led to mixed results, with Hayward looking like the best player on the floor some nights and then inexplicably struggling against inferior competition the next. 

And just like fans at times would become frustrated with his inconsistent play, Hayward wasn’t enjoying this rollercoaster of emotions fueled by his up-and-down play either. 

The 6-foot-8 forward has spent his entire basketball career working to strengthen his body to withstand the physical rigors that come with being a slashing, attacking-the-rim wing who can also make teams pay for sagging off him with a mid-range game that can extend beyond the 3-point line. 

But the injury forced Hayward to really work at strengthening his mind, something that he quickly acknowledged as being the biggest takeaway from his time thus far in Boston. 

“For sure I hit a low during my injury,” Hayward said. “And had to work more than ever on that mental side, more than I ever had in my basketball career on that mental side. That’s for sure something that takes work.”

The topic of mental health among professional athletes has gained significant traction in recent years as a discussion which professional players such as Hayward are far more comfortable addressing publicly. 

“For sure the mental side is where I’ve grown,” he said.

And that growth has Hayward in arguably the best position he has been in as a Celtic. 

Listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

While he was initially brought in to be either the team’s go-to guy or next in line, Hayward has effectively settled into more of a jack-of-all-trades role, allowing him to make an impact of significance without necessarily having to carry the team on a night-in, night-out basis. 

He’s averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season, his best numbers in those categories since becoming a Celtic. 

Just as impressive has been his efficiency — he's shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3-point range this season.

And while he’ll be the first to tell you that his time in Boston has indeed been a rollercoaster of sorts, he has no regrets about his decision to become a Celtic which reunited him with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens.

“It’s been some great moments for sure,” Hayward said of his time in Boston. “Obviously some not-great moments with the injury and everything but some great moments. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”