No team in the NBA has been struck by COVID-related absences quite like the Boston Celtics this season. Midway through April and the team is still feeling the ill effects of the virus. All-Star forward Jayson Tatum recently revealed that he’s begun to incorporate an inhaler pre-game to help alleviate some of the complications following his positive test.
Recently acquired Evan Fournier hasn’t been immune to the fallout either. The sharpshooter was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol back on April 6th and has since remained there. The 28-year-old has missed each of the past five games and did not travel with the team during their current West Coast trip. Updates on a potential timeline for Fournier have been fairly bleak up to this point.
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Danny Ainge Gives Latest on Evan Fournier
Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge joined the Toucher & Rich Podcast on Thursday, where the fellas hoped to pry some new details in regards to Fournier’s status. Ainge’s outlook was positive, but he kept information mostly close to his chest.
“He’s still in recovery,” Ainge simply noted when asked for the latest news on Fournier. “I talk to Evan each day. He’s doing better. He’s recovering.”
Ainge was later presented with the question of whether Celtics players can learn anything from Tatum’s battle with the virus and if that could have helped propel Fournier’s return to the hardwood.
“I think that the guys on our team that have had COVID, they’re all different. Everybody’s challenges are different,” Ainge stated. “So we have a great medical staff who continually talking to them and how they’re feeling and how they’re doing, and try to figure out ways to make their lives easier and better, and recovery faster.”
In total, Celtics players have missed 137 games due to COVID protocol this season, the most in the NBA.
Fournier Was Beginning to Heat Up
Since being acquired from the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline, Fournier has suited up in a total of just four games with the Cs. His first appearance with the team certainly didn’t go as planned, scoring zero points (0-for-10 from the field) in 33 minutes — the most scoreless minutes by a Celtics player with 10-plus attempts since the three-point era (1980), per StatMuse.
However, following his dreadful debut, Fournier was beginning to show glimpses of what originally enticed Ainge to bring him to Beantown. Over his next three games with the Celtics, Fournier amassed 40 points, including an average of 20.0 points per game over his final two contests before landing in COVID protocol.
While Fournier’s return to Boston’s lineup remains up in the air, expect him to play a pivotal role for a surging Celtics team down the stretch. Following a 17-point outing against the Charlotte Hornets on April 4th, head coach Brad Stevens noted that he’d like to further expand Fournier’s involvement even more in the team’s offense.
“Yeah, I mean I thought we did a really job good the other night finding him when he was going. We probably could have found him more tonight, although he only played 21 minutes,” Stevens said to reporters. “There’s a lot of things he does because No. 1 he’s a guy who can put the ball in the basket. The other team knows that so they have to put one of their better defenders on him. And so it all has a trickle-down effect.”
“I just think that’s why you need as many guys who can do that as possible and still be able to play together, play with the right flow, the right pace and everything else,” he continued. “So, he’s been great the last two games — I do think we need to work to find him more looks than he’s getting, but he’s not going to force it. He’s a good player, he knows how to play, makes the right play.”