For us New Englander's, winter, along with its snow, sleet, and ice is just arriving. But for the team we so often spend sheltered inside watching, the coldest part of the NBA season has almost passed.
One-fifth of the way through 2013-14, the unproven Celtics have marched through a brutal schedule of back-to-backs and tough opponents -- to find themselves at a better than expected 6-10. The six in the win column are surely a nice thing, as they've featured a dramatic game winner against our old rivals in Miami (rivalry currently on hiatus even though we beat you!), as well as the impressive fourth quarter comeback against the Hawks.
On the flip side, the Celtics have seen some ugly, ugly losses. Big leads have been squandered to bad teams, and fourty-eight minute slug fests (where Houston plays Mayweather and Boston plays ...anybody else) have left us battered. Even still, the progress this team makes is found largely in their losses.
Ultimately losing, they've led at halftime against the Grizzlies and Pacers, and were tied with the machine-like Spurs after the first half in San Antonio. One could make speculation that the Celtics are being out-adjusted during the game's breaks, but to say that is a slight to Brad Stevens; who has made his calm presence a welcomed sight, a polar opposite from the hoarse voice of Doc Rivers. In the early going, Stevens has made it clear that the win-loss column will be often ignored when measuring the growth of the team.
It's also well known that the name of the game in '13 is player development. Precedence is placed on shaking out the sand and discovering where the treasures lie as the rebuilding process moves forward. If that means favoring rookies over former All-Stars and Kardashians, then Brad Stevens won't hesitate. He can't. In his first year, Steven's has actually been gifted with something: an expectedly bad team. Patience, possibility, and most importantly -- belief from the front office, can allow him the space he needs to learn the ropes of the NBA game.
The month of November was structured by the league long before Stevens made the jump from Butler to Boston, but it feels as though it was scripted against him. Taking the time to develop young players amidst a hard schedule means ingesting losses and taking blame in the name of progress. Maybe the dismal starts by both teams in New York have masked some of the spotlight on Brad Stevens, but something about his demeanor suggests that none of that could possibly matter to his situation in Boston. Regardless, being able to learn without the constant criticisms a new coach like Jason Kidd is taking right now certainly won't hurt.
The Celtics still have three games in the final four days of November, as the final storm of the month sweeps in. Wednesday against the Grizzlies, Friday against the Cavaliers, and then Saturday, in Milwaukee.
Actually, inhale again. Although the schedule as it pertains to the calendar eases in December, the quality of teams won't change much. The Nuggets, Clippers, and Timberwolves are all scheduled, as well as the iffy Knicks (twice) and perhaps even iffier Nets. Bad teams are surely mixed in as well... Because this is the Eastern Conference.
December is however, a welcomed change in pace. An opportunity for Stevens and his staff to catch their collective breath and do what they do so well: watch, analyze, and improve. The holiday season holds the potential of promise, and the chance for the Celtics to grow their young players concurrently with their win column. Even in a year where wins come second, that's sounds like Christmas music to the ears of Celtic fans everywhere.