BOSTON, Mass — The Celtics are hoping their COVID-19 outbreak is behind them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t planning for a vicious return of the virus in the Boston locker room.
Jayson Tatum, one of the last players implicated in the virus outbreak that landed 14 Celtics players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols in the lead-up to Christmas, returned to the court Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. So did Aaron Nesmith.
However, Payton Pritchard was added to the protocols on Wednesday.
Head coach Ime Udoka has been spared so far, but that hasn’t been the case for head coaches around the league as the NBA deals with a rise in COVID-19 across all of its teams. Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer entered protocols on Wednesday, just as Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams and Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers were cleared to return from them. In total, eight coaches missed time in the last week, and 11 have been in the protocols this season.
Prior to Wednesday’s game, Udoka said the Celtics have a plan in place should he miss time due to the virus.
Assistant coach Will Hardy would take over as interim head coach.
“Everybody works together, has each other’s back as far as that, so if something does happen, we’re covered as far as that,” he said.
Udoka also acknowledged the reality of the situation he is in as a coach when it comes to being around players and team staff in such close contact.
“You don’t just chalk it up and say hopefully I get it and get it out of the way. You’re trying to be careful at the same time,” he said. “At times you’re shaking your head that another guy pops up positive, I’ve been exposed to him. Once you’re in the game, you’re in the game. You’re not really thinking about it like that.
“The one thing I have done is worn my mask when I’m sitting down as much as I can and just consciously remember that. It’s nothing that you’re going out of your way, but you do have to be safe and be smart any chance that you can.”