Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
The proud but wounded Celts need a lot of things going forward, starting with a few days off over the All-Star break.
File this one under Captain Obvious: Could the impending All-Star break be any better timed than it is for the Celtics?
Maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have had injury problems even worse that the Celts have. Perhaps the Dallas Mavericks, who are arguably the league's most disappointing outfit. Or the Lakers, a team on which everyone seems to hate everyone else like you read about, just for the sake of getting away from each other for a few days.
But the Celtics, who are fresh off a seven-game winning streak and close out this half of their season against the Bulls on Wednesday night at the TD Garden, are tired, injured and in need of some help.
It wasn't difficult to see the C's resurgence coming on after Rajon Rondo went down a little over two weeks ago. This group of proud veterans that had mostly underachieved all season, suddenly faced questions about their mental toughness, about whether they had what it took to overcome the loss of their floor general.
The general consensus was that they did not. At that point, you can bet the pride of the likes of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, both champions and mortal locks for the Hall of Fame, took over and helped ignite the seven game run that vaulted the Celts right back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Pride can only take you so far, though, especially when important players are dropping like flies and your top guns have the kind of mileage on their odometers that Garnett and Pierce do. The amount of minutes each of them played in Sunday night's classic, triple overtime win over Denver clearly had an effect on each of them the next night in a loss at Charlotte, and could well linger on for longer.
Now, headed into the break, the Celts have just 10 healthy bodies and that includes Fab Melo, who has played a grand total of four minutes this season while perfecting the quickest route from Portland, ME, to Boston. Suddenly, the Celts are richest in the area that seemed to be their weak spot earlier in the year, the frontcourt. Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins and Melo all patrol the paint while Pierce and Jeff Green man the wings.
That leaves the backcourt woefully thin, with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley the only remaining healthy guards. This is a problem. A major one. One that may require more that the time between the Celts' next game (Wednesday night) and the one after that (the following Tuesday) to remedy.
Still, those six days off couldn't be bigger. After the All-Star break, the C's embark on their annual, February western swing, a trip that will see them play five games in seven nights, including two back-to-backs. With the exception of the rematch against the Nuggets that opens the trip, the competition (Lakers, Blazers, Suns, Jazz) isn't as daunting as it could be. But these long, faraway road trips take their toll even on teams that are humming along at full strength.
It doesn't get much easier for the Celts after they complete their journey out west either. After returning home to play the upstart Golden State Warriors on March 1, they go back out on the road for four out of five, including trips to conference rivals Indiana and Philly and a Sunday afternoon, nationally televised game against Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Oklahoma. Yikes.
The Celtics turned their season around with that seven-game run while making the January/February turn, also known as the deadest portion of the NBA regular season, into must see TV. But their needs going forward also multiplied during that stretch.
Put the All-Star break and the time off it entails at the top of the list.