Hayward Ponders NBA's Possibilities Amid Worldwide Pandemic
BOSTON – Gordon Hayward doesn’t know when the NBA season will return, but what he does know is that when it does, it will feel foreign to all of the players.
Hayward, who spoke to media members on a conference call Friday morning after donating 450 Dunkin Donuts gift cards to Emergency Room workers at Boston Children’s Hospital, fully understands that the league is operating in uncharted territory amid the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world off its feet. The fallout from the pandemic has led to an NBA hiatus three-quarters of the way through the regular season and has created speculation as to what the league will look like if and when it is able to return.
“I think that whatever scenario they come up with is going to be something that none of us players have dealt with before,” said Hayward. “Whether that’s everyone being in Vegas or another location, whether that’s playing with no fans.”
Hayward then took a moment to hypothesize about what it would be like to play games – and maybe even the Playoffs – without fans inside the arenas.
“I think playing with no fans would be pretty wild,” he said. “It would almost be like a scrimmage at training camp. You’d have to bring all of your own energy. Home-court advantage is pretty much thrown out the window at that point in time.”
Another option that Hayward threw out as a possibility was a condensed Playoffs that would include fewer games, such as best-of-five series instead of best-of-seven series. The divisional round of the playoffs was a best-of-five series until the league switched to a best-of-seven format back in 2003.
Regardless of which path the league decides to take, Hayward explained that returning to game action will not be a smooth transition for players. He predicted that players, many of whom haven’t been able to shoot a basketball, let alone get up and down a court during this national emergency, will need two to three weeks of training to be able to return to the court without risking their physical health.
Then there is the mental hurdle of returning to game action – potentially with a rapid progression into a playoff run – after a hiatus that is likely to last for multiple months.
“I think the mental and emotional side of it is certainly going to be something that we’re all going to have to work through when we get back,” Hayward commented. “Because you just get in this mode and in this mindset when you’re in the middle of the season. And then to just kind of not have that for however long a period this is going to be.
“It’s going to be an adjustment to get back into that, especially if we get back and it’s almost right into the Playoffs. You’ve got to be able to really turn it on there and get really locked in and focused again.”
Hayward then revealed that this is a topic the Celtics have already broached and prepared for as a group.
“I think it’s something that the staff and the coaches for us have talked to us about a little bit,” he said, “and we’ve done some Zoom calls with the team and trying to stay connected, and I think that will help us out when we get back.”
In the meantime, Hayward is doing what he can to stay in shape at home while enjoying extra time with his family.
He revealed that he has been using a Peloton bike to keep his cardio conditioning at a high level. When the weather has been nice – which has been a rarity in Boston of late – he has also gone outside for runs. From a strength standpoint, he has been utilizing dumbbell and kettlebell weights at home that the team delivered to him.
From a family perspective, Hayward has spent the full days with his wife, three daughters and dog by going on walks, playing outside, and even teaching them how to ride a bike.
“Trying to get the girls to learn to ride their bikes without training wheels,” Hayward said with a chuckle. “That’s not going too great right now. But I’m gonna keep trying at that.”
This is an unprecedented time in which many US citizens have an opportunity to seize the finer things in life, such as family time. There is no doubt, however, that the NBA, its players and its teams are anxious to return to action – regardless of how foreign the league may feel when that time finally arrives.