Entering Thursday night’s showdown with the Phoenix Suns, the Boston Celtics are undoubtedly in as good a place as they have been this season. After winning six of their last seven games, the Celtics (32-27) are currently just one game behind the New York Knicks (33-27) for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Moreover, Jayson Tatum is playing his best basketball of the season and the team just enjoyed its first two-day break in several weeks.
While things are looking up now, though, the 2020-21 season has been a gauntlet for the club on the whole. Boston has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with several players having contracted the novel coronavirus throughout the campaign.
Even now, Evan Fournier finds himself in the league’s health and safety protocols. Meanwhile, Tatum continues to use an inhaler to help him deal with the aftereffects of the illness.
For his part, big man Tristan Thompson described his recent bout with the virus as “a battle.”
Nevertheless, there has been a level of resistance among players and team staff to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. So much so, in fact, that the Celtics have been unable to qualify for a loosening of the league’s safety protocols.
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Danny Ainge Dishes on COVID-19 Vaccine Holdouts
On Thursday, April 22, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich for an interview. One of the topics discussed was the level to which his team has been vaccinated now that shots are available to all American adults as of Monday, April 19.
Although Ainge said that players had been vaccinated, he also revealed that the club had multiple holdouts.
“Yeah, the team has been vaccinated; the people that chose to,” he said. “We’ve had a few people on staff that didn’t want to and then a few players that didn’t want to. But yes, they’ve had that opportunity.”
When pressed for more information on those within the organization that had declined vaccination, Ainge avoided revealing any specifics.
“They all have different reasons as to why they didn’t want to get it,” he said. “Some didn’t feel like we have enough information. And some feel like they just don’t do any vaccinations. They don’t do flu shots, they don’t believe in putting the poison in their bodies. And they just don’t feel comfortable doing it. And the same person doesn’t really take anti-inflammatories or aspirin, either. That’s just how he is.”
The Celtics GM was asked to clarify whether it was one player or more who had refused the vaccine. Although he refrained from giving a number, his response indicated that multiple players had yet to receive shots.
“Yeah, I’m not even certain on how many; I didn’t talk to tall of them.”
Higher Vaccination Rate Would Make Life Easier on the Celtics
As Ainge also noted during the interview, a number of restrictions would be lifted for his team in the event that it can get 85% of its players and staff vaccinated. He wouldn’t elaborate on all the changes that would go into effect but did mention a few of them.
Specifically, he said that there would be less masking required during workouts, as well as less testing overall. According to Ainge, the ability to bypass some of those testing requirements was a motivating factor in one player’s decision to receive the vaccine.
“The players have to test every day — a point-of-care test — and then you have to wait 30 or 40 minutes to get the results before they can go down on the court. And the players that been vaccinated don’t have to do that,” he revealed.
“So, we had one player that, after they got back from the road trip, they said, ‘You know what? I’m kind of tired of this point-of-care testing, so I think I will get vaccinated.'”
It is Ainge’s hope that others will follow suit. However, he maintained that the decision of whether or not to get vaccinated is a personal one.
“They had a change of mind; maybe there will be others. But we can’t force them and everybody has their own beliefs in this process.”