NBA players will struggle to put their best feet forward if they return to duty amid the fiercest competition.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward insisted as much Wednesday in an interview with the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy when he warned of sloppy games and a rash of injuries if the NBA goes straight to the playoffs when it resumes the 2019-20 season. The NBA is considering a number of scenarios for its return-to-play plan, including ones in which the final 18 or so regular season games would be cancelled and play would begin either in the NBA playoffs or in some sort of play-in tournament. Having been on hiatus since March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Hayward believes the basketball product is bound to suffer from the unprecedented break.
“If you go straight to the playoffs it will for sure be sloppy basketball,” Hayward said. “If you go straight to the playoffs you’re going to be risking injuries, too. It would literally be like having the playoffs at the beginning of the season, which from an entertainment standpoint, probably pretty entertaining because guys will still be trying to figure things out.”
The Celtics are one of six NBA teams who have yet to reopen their practice facilities to their players, but that changed Friday when Governor Charlie Baker announced they would be able to return to practice under specific guidelines.
But having been away from formal practices for over two months, Hayward expects the lengthy absence from formal training will represent a reset.
“The further we get away from the season, it’s almost like everything that was accomplished in the regular season at this point is thrown out the window,” he continues. “Everyone that was hurt will be back. During this season you find this rhythm, this groove that you get into because of running the same plays over, getting the same shots, learning about how you play with one another, the timing of when you’re going to be in and when you’re going to be subbed. All that stuff you have to figure out, and all that stuff happens at the beginning of the season. Now that we’ve taken such an extended break, it’s almost like you’re going to be starting over. That part of it will for sure be something everyone has to adjust to, and not being able to train the way I’ve wanted to, it will be interesting to see how they allow us to come back with the timing and all that.”
With that in mind, Celtics and other NBA fans must determine for themselves how much they’ll enjoy sub-optimal basketball whenever it returns.