Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, center, shown with former Celtics Paul Pierce, left, and Kendrick Perkins during a game on Feb. 29, is ready for the NBA to return and will accept whatever format is chosen for the playoffs, placing his faith in Commissioner Adam Silver. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press


The Boston Celtics were walking through the doors of the Red Auerbach Center on Monday, but the highly structured individual workouts at the team facility are still miles from the return of NBA games.

And not just the 1,121 air miles between Boston and Orlando, where the league is making plans to resume next month.

Under guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no more than four Celts could work out in the expansive gym in Brighton at one time, with one player to a basket and a fully protected assistant (gloves, mask) to facilitate the session for each.

The league is expected to vote Thursday on a format for the resumption of play, settling on the number of teams and whether there will be more regular-season games, a play-in tournament for the final postseason berths or some combination.

Speaking with the Boston  Herald by phone from Utah on Monday, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge addressed the issue of his format preference, expressing confidence in Commissioner Adam Silver and appreciation that there will be more to the 2019-20 season.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Ainge of the format. “It doesn’t really matter. There’s so many different opinions on what should be done. I think Adam has a tough job keeping everybody happy – well, that’s an impossible job. But I think that I trust Adam will do the right thing, and whatever he decides, we’ll follow along.

“There’s not one thing that I’m adamantly dying for from the different plans. I mean, there’s some I like a little bit more, but, listen, we all have to play under the same rules.”

And, ultimately, the Celtics will still have to get on the court and defeat their scheduled opponents to be successful.

“Exactly,” said Ainge.

Of what’s going on now with the Celtics, he said, “I’ve been in touch with everybody. I’ll be back shortly. I think guys are excited to get back playing. I don’t think there’s anybody that excited to get back in the gym by themselves, but it’s part of the process and it’s just something that we have to do. But I do hear that our guys are excited to play – and that’s with making sure they’re safe and all that kind of stuff. But guys want to play.

“I think as guys come back, hopefully everybody – the NBA, the players, the coaches – hopefully they all get comfortable with where we are with all that we’re facing and can play as normal. But I don’t think that’s going to happen in one week. I think that’s going to take a little bit of time.”

Ainge acknowledged the possibility that teams may not be able to conduct full practices until they arrive in Orlando in the time leading up to the games.

As for reports that some players around the league are concerned about playing again with no therapeutic treatment or vaccine yet available to deal with the coronavirus, he said, “I have not heard that from any of my guys personally. No one has shared that with me.

“I’m not really worried. … I mean, you’re always a little bit worried. There’s SOME risk. But I don’t think we’ve had any NBA players that have been hospitalized, have we? As a matter of fact, there’s been just minor symptoms with players.

“I’m the one who should probably be most concerned,” added Ainge, who has had two heart attacks. “But I feel as good as I’ve felt in years. The doctors are telling me to be really careful and protect myself the best I can. But, I mean, at the same time I’m hanging out with my grandkids.”

Ainge chose not to delve into the larger national issue of the protests that are taking place in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent charges against a Minneapolis police officer. Jaylen Brown led a march in Atlanta, and Marcus Smart and Enes Kanter spoke at a rally in Boston.

“We’ve sent out a statement from the Celtics, and I’ve talked to some players individually, but I don’t really want to get involved in it publicly,” he said. “I’m anxious to get back and talk to my players face to face. I’ve talked to some of them over the phone and traded some texts.

“I retweeted what Obama said about it, because it was spot on. That’s really all I’ve got to say.”

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