“We have as tight as protocols as anybody; strictly regulated and I don’t know what else we can do,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Every time it seems like the Celtics are about to shed a player off their injury report, another issue pops up.

This week, it was Evan Fournier who was out because of health and safety protocols, which happened right around when Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson returned. That’s the issue for the Celtics, who far and away lead the league in player days missed related to COVID-19. With only 20 games left in the season, time’s running out to see what a full-strength Boston squad can do, which Danny Ainge says frustrates the players the most.

“We have as tight as protocols as anybody; strictly regulated and I don’t know what else we can do,” Ainge said Thursday in a radio interview. “It’s been really a long year that way just when we feel like we’re right on the verge of getting everybody back, we have something else happen.”

The league has implemented more relaxed rules and protocols as long as more than 85% of team personnel have been vaccinated. Ainge said that’s been an area they’ve explored as millions of people are getting their COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve been trying to get something set up,” Ainge said. “We’ve even gone to other states because we can’t really get any shots here yet. So we’re just still. (Assistant general manager) Mike Zarren has been on the phone a lot trying to find a way to get the whole group vaccinated. But we’re patiently waiting and hopefully that’s going to happen in the next couple weeks.”

Massachusetts is currently in Phase 2 of 3 of its vaccine rollout. Certain groups can sign up to get their vaccine, including the 55-and-up category, which is why Ainge said he’s already been vaccinated. The state will open up the vaccine to the general public starting April 19, which is when the players are eligible.

Ainge said during his weekly radio appearance last week that a few Celtics players weren’t sure if they were going to get vaccinated. While they’re trying to get a group vaccination plan together, Ainge said they’ll see how that goes first.

“I think as of last week there are a few players of our 17 that are not certain,” Ainge said. “I don’t know how strong of a no they are. We’ll try to encourage everybody to do it, but it’s their choice.”

Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said not to expect Fournier back through at least this week; beyond that is unknown. The most recent Celtics to grapple with the virus have been Langford and Thompson, who each missed varying lengths of time before making their return.

But others have also been affected, whether that’s Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams III or even Marcus Smart dating back to the beginning of the pandemic. That’s taken a toll on this team, whether it’s in the short-term availability loss or longer-term lingering effects.

SUSPENSIONS: Toronto Raptors guards DeAndre’ Bembry and Fred Van Vleet and Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker were suspended one game without pay for leaving their benches during a fight.

The suspensions, announced by NBA executive vice president for basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe, stemmed from the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game, a 110-101 victory by the Lakers.


BULLS 122, RAPTORS 113: Nikola Vucevic and Zach Levine each scored 22 points and Chicago won in Tampa, Florida, for its third straight victory.

LaVine also had 15 assists, and Lauri Markkanen came off the bench to score 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Chris Boucher scored a career-high 38 points and had 19 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost 15 of 18.

CAVALIERS 129, THUNDER 102: Collin Sexton scored 27 points and visiting Cleveland ended a five-game series losing streak against Oklahoma City.

HEAT 110, LAKERS 104: Jimmy Butler scored 28 points to lead Miami to a win at home against depleted Los Angeles, which continued to play without injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

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