COVID hits Celtics: What it means going forward

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The COVID-19 experts and the NBA had anticipated that January would be a tough month. The league has joined the rest of the world in trying to live, work and play its season in traditional fashion without a bubble. A lot has happened this weekend affecting not only Sunday’s Celtics-Heat game but the immediate future of this team.

So what exactly happened this weekend to the Celtics?
● Thursday: Robert Williams tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out minimum of 12 days. According to Gary Washburn of the Globe, “Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, and Thompson recently rode in a car together, with Edwards the lone player wearing a mask. Edwards was cleared to play Friday against Washington because he was not considered a close contact. Grant Williams and Thompson, however, were considered risks.”
● Saturday afternoon: News breaks that Jayson Tatum's initial test came back positive late Friday night, the second Celtic to do so this week.
● Sunday 4:06pm: Mark Murphy reported “Source confirmed that Tatum's second COVID test came back positive as well, sending Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye and Javonte Green into quarantine.”
● Sunday 4:27pm: Shams Charania reported “The Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game tonight has been postponed, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. A Heat player has returned an inconclusive test, and team does not have required eight players to proceed with game tonight due to contact tracing.”
● Sunday 4:37pm: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported “While the Celtics-Heat game has been postponed tonight, the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite thinning rosters because of COVID-19 protocols in several places.”

Will the Celtics play Tuesday against the Bulls?
According to Adam Himmelsbach of the Globe, the Celtics were still scheduled to fly out Sunday evening.

Why did the Sixers play with 8 players on Saturday but Boston-Miami couldn’t play?
Actually, the Sixers played with 7 players. The NBA requires a minimum of 8 dressed players to be able to have a game be played. Mike Scott dressed but Doc Rivers said pregame he absolutely would not play him due to injury. On Saturday morning, Philly had enough players to play the game even after health and safety protocols sidelined 5 players. Additional injuries ruled out players hours before gametime and the NBA decided to let the game go on. Philly remarkably covered the +13.5 point spread vs Denver but that’s a story for another day. Boston-Miami was postponed due to the Heat not meeting the minimum number of active
players. Avery Bradley had an inconclusive test.

Why don’t the Wizards and the entire Celtics roster have to quarantine after being a close contact of Jayson Tatum?
The NBA does not consider players on the court to meet the definition of being a close contact. That seems absolutely absurd to me, especially for players playing 30 or more minutes. Bradley Beal was the only Wizards player to be sidelined for Sunday’s game due to a close contact from on Friday night.

Shams Charania tweeted “This is part of health and safety protocols investigating potential exposure that occurred when Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum were speaking in close proximity on the court postgame Friday night, sources said.” If a brief postgame conversation is enough to define a close contact, it’s hard to believe that hasn’t happened with anyone else on the Boston roster.

When will Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams return?
According to NBA COVID-19 protocols , a player who tests positive must be isolated for 10 days and is not allowed to exercise during that time. Then said player must workout for 2 days in the team facility, completely isolated from everyone else, and complete a cardiac screening. That’s 12 total days of missed game action.
● Tatum : Thursday, January 21st, if the timeline is 12 days from his reported positive test on Friday January 8th.
● Robert Williams : Wednesday, January 20th, if the timeline is 12 days from his reported positive test on Thursday January 7th.

When will the close contact guys return?
Players sidelined due to contact tracing are expected to be out for a minimum of 7 days so long as they do not test positive. The biggest question with all of these guys is when the clock starts on the 7 day countdown.
● Grant Williams: Friday 1/15 against the Magic at the earliest
● Tristan Thompson: Friday 1/15 against the Magic at the earliest
● Jaylen Brown: Potentially Sunday 1/17 vs Knicks. If not, then Wednesday 1/19 @
Sixers
● Semi Ojeleye: Potentially Sunday 1/17 vs Knicks. If not, then Wednesday 1/19 @ Sixers
● Javonte Green: Potentially Sunday 1/17 vs Knicks. If not, then Wednesday 1/19 @
Sixers

If the clock for Brown, Ojeleye and Green started on Saturday January 9th, these three guys could return, according to protocol, for Sunday January 17th’s game against the Knicks. Those three guys would miss three games.

If the clock started on Sunday, they would miss the Knicks game as well.

So who exactly do the Celtics have available right now?
Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Jeff Teague, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters, Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis and Tacko Fall.

What will the Celtics look like going forward?
Small. Inexperienced. Unproven offensively. It may get ugly as Boston plays at Chicago, vs Orlando twice and vs Knicks over the next 7 days.

This team absolutely can not play man to man defense going forward. Way too small to even try that. 5 of the Celtics remaining 8 players are shorter than 6’4. The wing depth was already a concern and now Aaron Nesmith is literally the only wing player left on the roster.

If Tacko or Theis gets in foul trouble, the Celtics could be in major trouble.

What is a potential starting lineup?
Edwards, Pritchard