Danny Ainge got out of the house for a walk Thursday afternoon, a break from his normal routine at a time when life in the NBA – and everywhere else – is anything but normal.

The Celtics’ president of basketball operations is still putting in the hours, staying in touch with others in the organization and preparing for a draft with no certain date. The games have been stopped, too, and no one is sure when or, really, even if the COVID-19 crisis will abate enough for them to resume the 2019-20 season.

But Ainge and the Celtics have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

“I try to get outside,” he said over the phone as he took in the fresh air. “The weather’s been pretty good. But I’ve been going into the office. I’ve been the only one that’s at the facility, and mostly just watching film and walking inclines on the treadmill and walking the back stairway and doing some exercise. And then I come home and I have my two boys and their wives here with (wife) Michelle and I, which makes it fun.”

Ainge, who was out scouting college tournaments in Las Vegas when the NCAA and NBA games were stopped, hasn’t been tested for the coronavirus. Actually, around the Celtics, just the players and a few support people have. But only Marcus Smart has tested positive, and all others are doing well and are practicing proper social distancing.

“I feel great,” said Ainge, whose medical history includes two mild heart attacks – one in 2009 and another during last year’s playoffs. “I feel fine. There’s been no symptoms at all, so that’s good. And I haven’t had contact with anybody from our team since, like, March 1 or 2.”


No physical contact, that is.

“I’m in communication with people in the organization, including players, every day,” he said. “I think they’re doing really well. I mean, guys have their workouts. They’ve requested stationary bikes and weights and weight vests and bands so they can do all sorts of their workouts that our trainers are giving them. So, yeah, I think everybody’s following all of the rules, staying quarantined, and just keeping to themselves. It feels like, in my conversations with everybody, that they’re all doing well. They all seem pretty upbeat. I’m just trying to keep them motivated.”

In a larger sense, the pandemic is causing greater concern as the number of positive tests and casualties increases.

“I know that it feels really scary, and I know that it is scary for some, but I don’t feel really scared,” Ainge said. “I feel more concerned, I guess, with all of the people whose livelihoods are being taken away from them, and I think that that is scary. I’ve seen that happen to people in my life in times before. I remember I had a psychologist that I worked with in Phoenix tell me one time that the loss of a job and the loss of one’s wealth is more devastating to most than losing a loved one or getting divorced. And that really hit me. I went, wow, I didn’t realize that. And I’ve had a few friends that have had to file for bankruptcy in years past that I saw firsthand how devastating that was.

“Because we’re quarantined and we’re not out in the world right now, I can just imagine all the millions of people that have lost their jobs. And I think of just all the people that the NBA’s associated with, just from television to the airlines to restaurants and the stadium – there’s just so many people that are attached to just our industry, and there are so many huge industries bigger than the NBA. That worries me as much as all of our people that are getting sick, because it seems like most people are recovering.

“And hopefully we can figure out a cure for this disease quick, and hopefully our hospitals don’t get too overrun too fast, so we can catch up with the amount of people that are sick and we can make sure that people are being cared for properly and that our healthcare workers have a chance for success.”


As for whether he subscribes to the president’s statement that the U.S. “cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” Ainge replied, “No, I’m not saying that exactly. Listen, I think that we have to cure the disease. I don’t know what more can be done, you know, doing social distancing, people being quarantined, businesses being shut down, beaches and parks (being closed). And I know that there was a poll I heard yesterday that, like, 90 percent of the people claim that they’re following it. At least that’s encouraging.”

Ainge, meanwhile, is trying to handle the situation well psychologically. The fact he generally adheres to no set routine may be working in his favor during these days of uncertainty and change.

“I’m doing good,” he said. “The role of my job is I’m always trying to figure out where I need to be. Do I need to be at a college game, at an international game, with the team, at practice, with my coaches, with a few of the players, up in Portland, Maine? I mean, where do I need to be? So I don’t really work on schedules. I plan out my trips, but as Frank (Burke, Celtics’ director of basketball administration) will tell you, I change flights more than anybody that he knows.

“You just have to adapt to what is needed at that moment, whereas as coaches are going crazy, because they’re used to having and following a schedule. Everything’s laid out in front of them on when they’re going to practice and when they’re going to take a plane to this city. They live on schedules, so it’s completely different for me than it is for them. I’m used to adapting more, and they’re learning about having to adapt under these circumstances.”

No one is clear on how those circumstances will shake out in the coming weeks and months, so for now Ainge will continue to work and walk – occasionally at the same time

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