Celtics plan to play Friday, another Suns game called by NBA

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Boston Celtics expect their unplanned weeklong hiatus because of coronavirus-related issues to end Friday, when they’re scheduled to play host to the Orlando Magic.

The Phoenix Suns, however, have a bit more time off coming.

The Celtics will be without at least three players Friday, including All-Star forward Jayson Tatum, because of the league's health and safety protocols. But four others are apparently on the cusp of satisfying their league-mandated time away from the team and are listed as questionable for Friday.

“I don't think there's an easy answer here," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thursday after the team's first time on the court together since a shootaround for a game Sunday against Miami that ultimately was postponed. “This is a difficult time around the country. This pandemic is as rampant as it's ever been and obviously we're feeling some of that despite the great precautions and great steps we're taking not to."

Meanwhile, the Indiana at Phoenix game scheduled for Saturday has been called off — the ninth such postponement since the week began. The Suns will not have enough players eligible to play, largely because of contact tracing issues, the NBA said. That decision means what would have been an entire three-game Suns homestand was lost, at least for now.

The earliest Phoenix will play again is Monday, when the Suns are scheduled to visit Memphis as part of the NBA's Martin Luther King Jr. Day schedule — so now it is certain that they, like the Celtics, will go at least a full week without a game.

One bit of good NBA news Thursday on the COVID front: New Orleans' Zion Williamson, who couldn't play in the Pelicans' loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday because of an inconclusive test, has since been cleared and is eligible to play Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Boston had three games that would have been played between Sunday and Wednesday postponed because some players were positive and others were ruled out because contact tracing showed that they could have been exposed to the virus.