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Celtics seeing the light of NBA return as they take to practice floor

The Celtic mantra from Brad Stevens during the pandemic-induced absence from basketball normalcy has been about "staying a week away from your best shape."

And with the club able to open its practice facility for voluntary individual player sessions this week, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. The NBA is preparing to offer more concrete plans on Thursday.

"We have a number of players that are here in Boston," said Stevens, who, by league rule, is not allowed to take part in the exercises. "We have a number of players that are going in. The value of those individual workouts, I think right now, especially with the facility being back open, is you're back on the NBA court with all the NBA lines. You're able to expand and a do a little bit more conditioning on a full court.

"We've structured all of those times as such so that it's a very tight schedule. It's voluntary. If they don't want to come, they don't have to come. But they have a set time, because we have to be cognizant of all the NBA, state health and CDC guidelines with regard to the rules that are in place.

"I don't think it's the end-all, be-all to be back in the facility right now. I didn't think that on May 8, I don't think that right now. Our guys all over the place have been very committed to staying a week away from their best shape. We've had constant conversations with that. It is great that they're able to be back, and I think they like it, and I think maybe more than anything is that you have the strength equipment. You don't have limited strength equipment, you have everything you could possibly need from a strength and conditioning standpoint. That's probably the best benefit.

"But the way that it is, you've got somebody behind those guys, as they're lifting, ready to clean it up right after they're done. It's amazing, the work. I certainly should single out Jason McKenna, who runs our facility, and (director of performance) Phil Coles and (athletic trainer) Art Horne and all the work they've done on preparing that facility to be the safest place you could possibly work out."

Stevens and the Celts are still waiting on the definitive return structure, but, in whatever form the resumption of the 2019-20 season takes, the NBA will be housed in some type of "bubble" on the Disney property near Orlando.

"As far as the Disney model goes, there feels like there's probably a lot of stuff left to cover from a bases standpoint," Stevens said Tuesday. "It makes sense, the idea of isolating everyone and ultimately trying to make it an environment that has as little infection as possible I guess would be the right way to say it. I think there are still a lot of T's to still cross and I's to dot. The powers that be are working on that."

In addition to getting ready for basketball, the Celtics also have to be prepared to spend perhaps some two months in a virtual lockdown to create a safe space free of the coronavirus.

"I think first and foremost, the way that I look at it from a personal perspective is just simply family," Stevens said. "I know that question is being asked and bantered about the league, and the league has a great responsibility should they move forward in making sure it's a safe environment. So I understand all the different things they are wrestling with, but yeah, as a person who absolutely loves being around his wife and kids every day, the length of time is certainly a factor."

It's also interesting to wonder how the games will look without fans and under whatever other precautions will be taken.

"Yeah, I've given a lot of thought to all this stuff," Stevens told reporters. "Like all the rest of you, I've been sitting in my house for three months, so I've thought about this stuff over and over and over. But I think there will be some interesting parts if we were to resume play without fans. And obviously, I think the competitiveness will be the same, in my opinion. When you see these guys go after each other in practice, or if you go to practices of great players playing against each other in the summer in Vegas, USA Basketball or whatever the case may be, some of those, the competitiveness will be tremendous.

"I think the sound will be great for TV. I think people would love to hear more of the coaches, players, referees, the dialogue between everybody. So I'm interested to see if we do get in that scenario, what the league will decide on pumping in noise or not. Because I think the voices of the game would be a whole new world and a lot of fun. And to be honest, I think it would be most impactful in kind of a depth of what these guys do possession to possession from a basketball standpoint and how much communication goes into it."

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