After the first half of the regular season, the Boston Celtics are in fourth place of the Atlantic Division with a 14-27 record. Despite being 3.5 games back from the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, they are also only 3.5 games removed from the second worst record in the entire NBA.
To report on the State of the Celtics, I asked our team of writers six questions about the season so far. In the second part of our series, I asked:
What are your general thoughts on the season so far? Has anything stood out?
The main purpose of the season has been to develop younger players. Thus far I think that's gone very well. Olynyk got set back by an injury but obviously we've seen some glimpses of upside. Pressey has advanced faster than I thought. Bradley has developed an offensive game. And the biggest win has been Sullinger, who looks like the real deal.
Danny Ainge is one of the most creative general managers in the NBA (in all of sports?) and has proven his magnificence so far this season. You can call it luck if you want, but one year ago the Celtics traded Leonardo Barbosa for Jordan Crawford, and this past week, he turned Crawford (and MarShon Brooks) around for a potential first round pick in the 2014 or 2015 draft. To get the first rounder, the 76ers have to make the playoffs in one of the next two years, but will they? Well, they're only three games out -- the same spot the Celtics are in -- and it's possible that a meager 30 wins could net a team the eighth seed this season. With the forthcoming return of Nerlens Noel, the 76ers could sneak in, and the Celtics could have themselves a third pick in this year's boisterous draft.
I thought I would hate this season because I was angry about Paul Pierce being traded, and KG agreeing to follow. However, it is hard to kill love, and I do love the Celtics. The more I watched, the more I buried my anger. The subsiding of my anger gave me pause to let that "Celtic love" bubble to the surface. Losses are still tough to take, even though I know they are coming like the flu in winter, but seeing underdogs like Pressey start to shine, and watching someone like Sully snatch rebound after rebound helps soothe the pain. In the end, this year will be one to forget and simply move on. I have seen the long Celtic droughts, as well the deluge of victories over the years. You can't have the good without the bad. So...I sit and wait for the good to reappear.
Obviously this season has been rough and, at times, difficult to watch. But that doesn't mean there isn't a single positive to take away from this campaign. Avery Bradley has been shooting the lights out recently (sans the Lakers game) and if he continues to do so perhaps Danny Ainge will think he's worth the couple extra million dollars Bradley is seeking in free agency this summer. We've also seen big improvements from guys like Jared Sullinger and Phil Pressey. Brad Stevens is doing a hell of a job developing the young guys on this team and, at the very least, is putting together a fun group to watch.
The season's been filled with its share of ups and downs already, but overall, I'd say this is pretty much what we expected from the Celtics back in training camp. They're not the most talented or consistent bunch, but they play hard and already have a few young players who show the potential for future promise. Sullinger has really shown the ability to excel at this level, and Avery Bradley has had a nice season as well. It was never Danny Ainge's intention for this team to contend for a playoff spot, and they'll end up right where most sensible observers expected by season's end.
The season is going almost as I had imagined. There have plenty of close losses with the Celtics playing hard every night and giving us some entertainment, if nothing else. At first, with the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference and Boston reeling off some wins, it seemed like the playoffs were in play. That fizzled out with the recent losing streak and things seem to be balancing out. My only disappointment was Rajon Rondo not returning sooner, only because we were been deprived of watching one of the most fun and interesting players in the league. His return last game has given this season a new jolt of excitement.
Regardless of Gerald Wallace's escaping inner demons, I believe we've been a fairly scrappy young squad that has achieved more than our record shows. In a season where moral victories are key we've had some pretty close brushes with actual success, losing more than a few games by either a bad third or fourth quarter or just a couple of good good plays gone bad. Most importantly; lots and lots of individual development has made this team great fun to watch.