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Danny Ainge Is A Busy Man During NBA's Shutdown

BOSTON (CBS) -- While the NBA is currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Danny Ainge is still hard at work. The Celtics president has a lot on his plate as he navigates these uncharted waters, and it's not just a gigantic serving from Chipotle.

Ainge, along with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, is making sure Boston players are doing what they can to stay in shape when the NBA returns to action. He's not sure if that will happen anytime soon, but he remains hopeful.

"I'm holding out hope that we're going to play basketball again this year, but that's just me being a fan. I don't have any inside information on that," Ainge said on his Wednesday conference call with Boston reporters.

Ainge said he wouldn't mind a return to empty stadiums, because playing in front of no one is better than not playing at all.

"I've gone to college games and high school gyms where there's 40-50 people in the building and it's still a good game," he said. "I've gone to practices where there's zero people in the room and it's intense and it's a battle. ... It's not ideal, but I think it could work."

Unfortunately, the Celtics haven't had any of their usual intense practices in over a month. Keeping players engaged while away from the court hasn't been too difficult for Ainge and company, but he admits that some players are doing more than others.

"This is a time for the really self-motivated. We're approaching this like we're returning to play," he said. "We are staying in touch with conference calls, having guest speakers and motivational speakers. We are doing workouts with coaches and strength coaches via Zoom, trying to do all we can. Some players are better than others at doing things on their own and doing extra work. Some players are more compliant than others, some are harder to reach than others. But I've been impressed with how much players are buying in and the work that is going on behind the scenes."

Ainge joked that he's been putting so many videos of himself shooting hoops on social media -- along with his pooch -- as an invite to Jayson Tatum, who has said he doesn't own a hoop and hasn't been able to play any ball during the NBA's shutdown.

"He can come use it any time he wants," joked Ainge. "It's all his."

Those guest speakers Ainge talked about included rapper-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg and rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J, both of whom shared some inspirational stories with the team, according to Ainge. The Celtics also had Dr. Myron Rolle, the former NFL safety who is now a neurosurgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital on the front lines in the battle against coroanvirus, speak to the team.

Part of Ainge's busy schedule includes getting ready for the NBA Draft, which is, at the moment, set for June 25. Ainge and his staff are preparing to make picks that day, though he believes it will likely get pushed back due to coronavirus.

The pre-draft process has been difficult, but Ainge sees this time as a chance to get ahead of everyone else. He and his staff are holding conference calls three or four times a week, going through entire college conferences at a time. They've been able to chat with seniors who are draft eligible, but not underclassmen at this time.

That, along with the lack of pre-draft meetings and workouts, make things complicated. But Ainge is confident his team has a good handle on the situation, making the most out of what they can do at the moment. He also said pre-draft workouts aren't the end-all be-all when it comes to taking a player, but named one big example where one of those meetings sold him on a player.

"Let's take Rajon Rondo as an example. Had I not been able to see him in the draft workout, and sat down and talked with him, looked into his eyes and listened to him, I don't think I would have drafted him," Ainge said of the point guard. "I think there is value in that. At the same time, we drafted Avery Bradley without any draft workouts. I drafted Steve Nash back in my Phoenix days without any workouts.

"You don't always get guys in for workouts, so you have to be prepared to take them. That's why we've done so much homework at this time, so if we don't get workouts we'll be prepared," he said.

When he's not focused on the Celtics, Ainge is enjoying his extra time at home with family. He's enjoyed watching old Celtics games and educating the younger Ainges on the days of Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Like sports-thirsty fans around the country, the Ainge family tuned into ESPN's docuseries The Last Dance about the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls over the weekend.

Ainge joked that he got shushed by his kids whenever he tried to share insight on Jordan.


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