Evan Fournier absence highlights Celtics' brutal luck with COVID

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Darren Hartwell
·3 min read
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COVID has hit Celtics harder than any NBA team, and it's not close originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There's a pretty long list of reasons why the Boston Celtics are on pace for their worst record in six seasons.

You can include "global pandemic" on that list.

The Celtics will be without newcomer Evan Fournier and veteran big man Tristan Thompson for Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, as both players are in health and safety protocols.

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Fournier is set to miss his third of seven games with Boston since joining the team via trade, while Thompson hasn't played since March 14 while missing the Celtics' last 12 contests.

That's after Romeo Langford's season debut was delayed due to 24 days in health and safety protocols, and after All-Stars Jayson Tatum (16 days) and Jaylen Brown (seven days) both missed multiple games while in the NBA's COVID-related protocol.

If that seems like a lot of missed games ... it is. According to COVID tracking data by Fansure, Celtics players had spent a combined 131 days in COVID protocols entering Tuesday night (which will increase that number to 133).

That's the most in the NBA by nearly three full weeks of missed days.

Team

Player Days in Protocol

Boston Celtics

131

Dallas Mavericks

111

Toronto Raptors

105

Miami Heat

104

Minnesota Timberwolves

95

Philadelphia 76ers

90

The C's certainly aren't alone in battling COVID adversity. The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors had to play without stars Jimmy Butler and Fred VanVleet early in the season and floundered as a result. Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Karl-Anthony Towns has missed a total of 20 games thanks in part to a rough bout with the coronavirus.

But the Celtics have been hit particularly hard up and down their roster. A total of 11 Boston players have spent at least one day in protocol, while the C's have missed more days as a whole than the 10 least-impacted teams combined.

Long season for C's

Celtics' player days missed due to COVID protocols

131

Total player days missed of 10 least-impacted teams

122

Variation

Double

Again, there are plenty of other reasons for the Celtics' struggles season, many of which are in their own control. But these COVID absences shouldn't be overlooked on a team that's dealt with chemistry and consistency issues for much of the campaign.

Forsberg's Four: What the Celtics must fix to salvage their season

"I said at the beginning of the year to our team, 'We have to all be on our toes and be ready to hit curveballs,'" Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" on Tuesday. "I should have said, 'take gut punches.' Because it's been like one after another from the health and safety protocols for our team.

"... That's one of the reasons why I've tried to maintain perspective through our struggles, because we have been hit pretty hard. And it has created a situation where, for the most part, we've been pretty disjointed with lineups that have been available ... and opportunities to create any rhythm or momentum for our team."

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The good news for Boston: Thompson is nearing a return as he ramps up his conditioning, which would leave Fournier as the only player in health and safety protocols and potentially give the Celtics a chance to be at full strength for the home stretch.

Unless the C's get hit by another "gut punch."