Celtics Return Preview: Three Big Questions For Boston Before NBA’s Return

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Just less than three weeks out from the NBA’s attempt at returning to play, there are a lot of questions still up in the air about how successful it will be.

And if the league and its host, the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., can actually pull this off, even more questions emerge about what each team can pull off given the very unique situation.

Certainly, the Boston Celtics were impacted immensely by the NBA’s return to play format and protocols. And here are some of the biggest questions they face in pursuit of an 18th banner being raised up into the rafters at TD Garden.

Here are three of the biggest question marks the team currently faces:

Did a healthy Boston Celtics travel to Florida?
It’s funny, because a global pandemic may have actually helped the Celtics get healthy for a return.

The team’s injury woes undoubtedly were one of the major factors holding Boston back from widespread regard as an NBA championship contender. But all this time off has given C’s players an opportunity to get healthy after hardly ever playing at full strength before the pause.

Seriously. This team has only played at full strength a handful of times.

Kemba Walker’s knee still remains a concern, though the NBA’s hiatus was “super important” for his rehab. Head coach Brad Stevens suggestion the All-Star point guard could be on a minutes restriction at first.

Not to mention, the risk of injury is increased. It’s a lot to ask of the human body to go from a few months off straight back into fierce competition playing one of the most athletic sports in the world.

We’ll see how well these guys were able to rehab, with professional sports teams’ training facilities in Massachusetts some of the last to open.

On top of all that, we’d remiss not acknowledging this whole NBA-restart thing is going down in one of the world’s biggest coronavirus epicenters. It’s fine.

Will Jayson Tatum pick up where he left off?
Jayson Tatum was becoming a household name for even the most casual of NBA fans before the pandemic.

He rocketed to relevance around the league after the All-Star break, having an absolutely dominant month of February and March, on the court and with media hype. The forward’s play was impressive because unlike most young players, whose improvement is mostly noted after an offseason, Tatum’s game was growing leaps and bounds before the NBA suspended its season.

So, we’d like to think this impromptu offseason means Tatum won’t pick up where he left off, but will instead return significantly better. And if everything were in his control, that likely would be the case.

But for many of these guys, training and practicing to their fullest potential during the darkest days of COVID-19 quarantines was not easy to do. Tatum didn’t even have a basketball hoop until the end of April.

Can Boston avoid a first-round playoff matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers?
The Celtics, even shorthanded, have shown they have what it takes to beat any team in the NBA.

Unfortunately, they’ve only shown that once against the Sixers in four meetings this season.

As things stand now with the Celtics in third in the Eastern Conference standings, they currently line up to face the sixth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs if nothing changed. Not ideal.

Though Boston has an easier schedule than the No. 2 Toronto, the team was three games back of the Raptors with just eight seeding games to play before the season was paused.

So if the Celtics can’t close the gap, things look plausible for the Sixers to take hold of the No. 4 or No. 5 spot.

Philadelphia sits tied with Indiana for the five seed (the Pacers get the tiebreaker) and is two games behind the Miami Heat at No. 4. And with a healthy Ben Simmons, the Sixers are capable of moving up in the standings with road games no longer being a factor.

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Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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