Boston guard Kemba Walker should be healthy when the Celtics return to the court, and that should open things up for Jayson Tatum and others. Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics have assured everyone, players included, that the Auerbach Center is the safest, most COVID-free spot in Boston.

That’s a comfort for a group that has started to re-emerge – voluntarily of course – for these one-man/one-basket informal workouts. The resumption of competition in late July may seem like an eternity away, though when a brief July training camp is factored in, there will be a rush to get back into mid-season form.

Initial play will be sloppy, and the sudden return to competition considered, hamstrings could start popping like a string chorus. That’s why, from a Celtics perspective, trainer Art Horne and his staff may be the most important people in the house at the moment.

On the plus side, the so-called and seldom-intact core five of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart is healthy again. All five were active together for only 13 games this season.

The fact that this group missed a combined 61 games to injury this season points to just how much of a slog the Celtics’ 43-21 record – currently third-best in the East – actually represents. But as a group that especially depends on ball movement and chemistry, they won’t have a lot of time to regain that cohesion, with a mini-camp and eight regular-season games to iron life back into order.

This is also a group that lost four of its last six games, including a win in Indiana on March 10. In a sense, the group will be starting from scratch.

KEMBA WALKER

No one needed this break as much as Walker, who missed nine of 13 games between Feb. 1 and March 4 to left knee soreness – a red flag that made rest so important, with the hope that the veteran guard would be close to fresh by playoff time.

Now that he’s had the equivalent of a full off-season to rest and work back into form, with the nonstop chatter from his temporary housemate, Grant Williams, to keep things fresh down in Charlotte, the Celtics hope to have one of their most explosive weapons back to full strength. Walker returned from his injury long enough to play three games before the season was truncated. His minutes were managed, he averaged 12.6 points on 28% shooting (.208 from 3-point range), and lacked explosiveness.

At his best Walker is the Celtics’ best microwave option, and they’ll need every volt he can manage once the playoffs begin. His return to form will be vital if Jayson Tatum is to start shedding those waves of blitzing coverage.

JAYSON TATUM

As Tatum admitted, the blitzing he faced during a stirring Feb. 23 loss against the Lakers in the Staples Center was “different.” He scored 41 points anyway, and scored 32 or more in each of his next four games. The Celtics’ new star has been born, and he’s the greatest young scorer this franchise has seen since Paul Pierce.

But the frequency of that blitzing and trapping has continued, and once the Celtics resume competition in Orlando, it’s only going to intensify. That’s why, as gifted and constantly improving as he is, Tatum will need the likes of Walker, Hayward and Brown to spread the floor and diffuse pressure.

Injuries to this lineup considered, though, he remains remarkably durable for a young player. He only missed five out of 64 games this season to injury – one to right knee soreness, three to a groin strain, one to illness – after missing only five over his first two seasons. Offensively he’s ready to carry this team. Hopefully that won’t be necessary.

GORDON HAYWARD

Hayward’s entire Celtics career has been defined by stops and starts, from horrid ankle surgery to, this year, a broken left hand that kept the forward out for 13 games. As such, his confidence level has wavered, and just when he appeared to be on the verge of regaining his Utah form, another mishap occurs. Lingering soreness in his left foot has also been an issue this season.

But no one has done more to replicate the departed Al Horford’s value offensively on this team. Though he’ll have to develop chemistry with this group all over again, Hayward is this team’s primary facilitator and, when his 3-pointer is falling, a game-breaker. His 3-point shooting was indeed on the rise at the time of the shutdown. His .392 3-point percentage mirrored the career-high .398 figure from his last season in Utah.

JAYLEN BROWN

Some late-season hamstring trouble slowed down what, as with Tatum, was a breakthrough season for Brown. He’s emerged as arguably the Celtics’ finest two-way player. Beyond his ever-improving work against the toughest scorers on the other side, Brown has become a more confident, in-control finisher.

He’s learned how to complete those explosive moves, to the point where he’s a great driving counterpoint to the deep threats of Walker, Tatum and Hayward. He’s also shooting .381 from deep, while attempting almost six 3-pointers per game.

MARCUS SMART

He’s battled COVID-19, donated his plasma for antibody research, and like Robocop, Smart simply motors ahead, sacrificing his body at every turn. As with Walker, Smart has been a great beneficiary of the shutdown from a healing standpoint.

And for all of the criticism he has historically received for his shot selection, Smart is averaging a career-high 2.4 3-point makes per game on 6.9 attempts – over two more than his previous high. He’s as willing as ever to launch, which for a team trying to regain its form is a good thing.

THE BIG MEN

He was gone so long – 37 games – with a hip issue that Robert Williams eventually blended in with the Auerbach Center walls. Once he was cleared, though, this uniquely-gifted big man’s leaps for joy scraped the ceiling. He’s the only true rim protector on the roster, and a dramatic change of pace to Daniel Theis’ versatile excellence in the starting lineup.

Enes Kanter is the best rebounder in the group, and though his old-school post game isn’t always a fit with the regulars, he has had success bodying Joel Embiid in the blocks. Chasing anyone off a pick-and-roll is another matter. Grant Williams is the small-ball reserve option at center, and though not of much use in the paint as these playoff matchups get bigger, his versatility will pull the rookie in this direction from time to time.

THE REST

Coach Brad Stevens would normally be inclined to shorten his playoff rotation, though that may not be possible in August. Count on Williams, an uncommonly mature rookie, to work his way into multiple scenarios. Brad Wanamaker’s calm style, too, will be important at point guard. Another rookie, Romeo Langford, was just starting to show his promise by the time March 11 hit. Though normally young players recede on the bench at this time of year, there may be some interesting spot duty in Langford’s future.

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