One month left in the regular season. Sixteen games. Welcome to the stretch run.
Part of me really just wants to fast forward to the playoffs. I don't know if I can learn anything else about this team that is going to change my mind much about them. I think they are good enough to beat anyone if healthy but I haven't seen that level in months. I think they are inconsistent enough to lose to anyone and if they don't keep the effort up, they will fall to the first team that does. Will they give their best effort and stay healthy for the last month? Who knows?
What I do know is that everything changes in the playoffs. That can be a good or a bad thing for this team. If they really have been bored, that's over. If Kung Fu Rasheed and company are saving their best for the post season, great. Lets see it. Nothing will get this team more fired up and focused than a 7 game series. Of course it cuts both ways. Teams that we might have been able to intimidate for a night will get geeked up and swing back as hard as the Hawks and Bulls did the last two years. (prediction: like every year, we're going to grow to hate the first round opponent, whomever it is).
I'm holding out hope that the playoffs are the difference that we need because the regular season has been a pretty big disappointment thus far. If it wasn't for the fast start the team got out to, we'd be a lot more panicky as a fanbase than we already are.
Speaking of which, allow me to make a quick tangent point. I'm still proud of my Optimistic Realism post because I think I was able to capture a quick snapshot of fans of this team. But part of me wishes I never wrote the thing. As a general rule, labeling anyone is bad and I don't like doing that. Regardless of how you chose to root for your team, you aren't defined by that. You are a fan, period. Otherwise you wouldn't be here reading this blog (day and night for many of you). All points of view (presented in a respectful manner) are welcome here. Don't ever treat someone poorly because their view differs from yours or their style is not what you would do. Like the guys on the floor, we are a team, and our differences is part of what makes us stronger. Ok, rant over.
Back to the games. Even though part of me wants to fast forward to the playoffs, there's part of me that is still interested in the last month as well. The seedings will be a neat sideshow, but they are so out of the team's hands at this point that I'm not going to get overly worked up about (well, not yet at least). The Hawks might kill us, but the Magic own the Hawks and I like our chances against the Magic. So you never know what could happen.
What will be more interesting down the stretch is how consistent the team performs. If they can string together several solid efforts (they don't even have to be wins, as long as they are hard fought and competitive), then I'll feel a lot more comfortable. If we can manage to go a full month without an injury (resting players doesn't count) then I'll feel more comfortable. Right now, I'm happy the team has put together some good wins sandwiched around a loss to the best team in the East. But I'm not comfortable by any means.
So what team will show up in the post season? Right now I have no idea. Perhaps this next month will show us.