"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." I'll spare you the rest of the song, but you get the idea.
The playoffs are finally, finally here. Glad we got those 82 games out of the way. And yikes, was that last month or two miserable or what?
It doesn't matter anymore though, none of it does. What matters is getting 16 more wins before the season ends - making sure the last game you play ends with a win.
If it doesn't happen, the season, as the Celtics know it, is a failure - hey, facts are facts.
Was the trade good for the Celtics or bad for the Celtics? "TBD" should be the only answer. It will be pretty clear soon enough.
Another thing that will be clear is whether or not the defending Eastern Conference Champions can kick it into another gear much like they did last postseason.
How many of us wrote the team off before the postseason began? Relax you had every reason to. How many of us were disgusted with the way the team was playing going into the postseason, and were already thinking about free agency? Again, relax - you weren't alone.
Now, how many of us forgot all about it when the Celtics knocked off the Cavs?
It's not about what this team does in the regular season; it's about what happens in the postseason. Yes they played Game 7 of the Finals on the road last season, but even so, that was a winnable game, and I'd point to the loss of Kendrick Perkins and no suitable backup as the main reason for that loss - not playing it in L.A.
Is there a team in the Eastern Conference with more playoff experience than the Celtics right now? Nope.
Is there a team in the Eastern Conference deeper than the Celtics right now (they're healthy)? Nope.
Is there any other team in the Eastern Conference that came up one quarter short of becoming NBA Champions the season prior? Don't you think they remember how close they came? Don't you think that's the reason they all decided to come back?
"I think this is what our guys have been playing for all year," Doc Rivers said of the postseason. "You know, when you lose a Game 7 it sticks with you and that's very difficult to get back through the regular season because the whole season you're thinking about, ‘Gosh, we've got to go through 82 of these just to have a chance go get back to where we were at last year' and now all that part is gone. And now we can start trying to get back to, and finish the job."
And don't for a second think that any team wants to meet the Celtics in the playoffs.
They didn't come back to win every game in March. It would have been nice, but that's not how this Celtics team operates, especially not with the way the injuries hit them this season. In all honesty, it's pretty amazing that they were able to win 56 games - six more than last season, with the bumps in the road along the way.
One similarity between last season and this season is that guys are getting healthy just in time for the postseason stretch.
By the time Game 1 is underway, the Celtics starters will have had one week of rest, and hopefully Shaquille O'Neal will be suiting up along with them.
"I feel good that our team will be ready; I feel really good about that," Rivers said. This has been far more difficult (than last year) because of the trades, the injuries, the late-season seven-out-of-eleven games. It's just been - that's been extremely difficult. We lost our rhythm; had no practice to get it back, and then we had injuries. So it's great playing on Sunday, let me just put it that way. We'll be ready."
He won't play, but...
It was great to see Avery Bradley show signs of promise, even though it came in the last game of the season, and in a meaningless one at that. Bradley wasn't drafted by Ainge to help out this season. That was obvious from the start. But Bradley can help the C's in the future, and taking a quick look at the current roster, looks to be one of the only guys here now that will still be a part of it.
Doc Rivers stands by his statement that Bradley is an NBA defender straight out of college. Bradley showed flashes of that last night, stealing the ball twice and staying active on the defensive end. Bradley also dropped 20 points, by far his career high.
"I felt good," Bradley said. "I mean we've been practicing a lot and just going up against Rondo every single day, and we go hard in practice. Those guys just got me so much better from the beginning of the year to now. Not playing much I still get better in the little bit of time we've got in practice and on my own. It was big for me tonight to go in there and show coach that I go hard when my name is hard to help my team any way that I can."
A lot of younger players might be disappointed with the lack of playing time, but Bradley is certainly in a unique situation. He sacrifices playing at the start of his career, but being on a team like the Celtics enables him to learn a lot about the game that some guys in his rookie class aren't able to so early in their careers.
"I just take the most out of it and try and learn every single day," Bradley said. "Every single day I am learning something, and the good thing is those guys come to you, or you can go to them and learn things. I learn from everybody, even from Jeff [Green], Carlos [Arroyo] is a big help, big, big help. I love my teammates and playing on this team is the best thing for me."
But even though Bradley is learning from his veteran teammates, there's still a part of him who wants to play. Bradley was sent down to the D-League during the regular season, and it was there, you could say, that he got his mojo back.
"In the D-League I was able to have a rhythm and feel comfortable at that level, and I felt the same way tonight," he said. "The D-League really helped me out a lot. Helped me know that I could still play a little bit. When I went down there I was kind of nervous, I didn't know what I could do because I haven't played in so long. So that helped me out a lot and when I came back up I was going in practice hard every single day, like every day after practice and my teammates were like, ‘We can tell that you're more hungry coming from the D-League.'"