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A quick peek at the standings

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Are things starting to shift in the playoff "race?"

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics are still locked into the 4 seed in the East with a 12-15 record.  Jokes aside, that's where we would be if the season ended today.  The season does not end today though, so it is worth taking a quick look around the league to see how this might shake out.

The Hawks, Pistons, Bobcats, and Wizards have all won two straight games.  The Wizards just got Bradley Beal back and Nene is back as well (for now).  That makes them a much better team than they were a week or two ago.  Each of those teams (plus Cleveland) has a legit chance at making the playoffs without the benefit of playing in the Altantic.

By now you should realize that the team with the best record in each Division is automatically guaranteed a top 4 seed.  So when everyone in the Division stinks like 5 day old lukewarm egg nog, someone backs into the playoffs.

So let us turn our attention there for a moment.  The Raptors enjoyed a bit of a bounce in the standings when Rudy Gay was traded away and players started sharing the ball more.  I don't really expect that to last too long and the GM seems intent on blowing the team up further.  That leaves the Knicks and the Nets.  This topic has been beaten to death by smarter people than me, so I'll be brief.

The Knicks won last night, but only because someone had to ...eventually.  It seems like the Knicks will see how things go with a healthy Tyson Chandler before making a decision on their coach but I wouldn't bet on him lasting too long.  They have too much talent to be winning just 32% of their games but they're also too dysfunctional at the moment to really right the ship.  In the last 10 games they're 5-5 which sounds about right for them.  If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll have a punchers chance of backing into the playoffs (which they actually want since they don't have their own pick).

The Nets, on the other hand, I have higher hopes for.  They are getting healthy again and a full speed Deron Williams makes them a whole lot better on the court.  They just lost to the Wizards but as I mentioned already, that's also a decent team when healthy.  I just get the feeling that the Nets are due for a run where they pick up 6 or 7 straight wins, or go 9-1 over a 10 game stretch and leapfrog over the Celtics in the standings.

The Celtics are going to keep competing without Rondo but ultimately they aren't a .500 team with him on the sidelines.  Obviously everything changes when he returns, and if we make this trade that's another curveball the team will have to adjust to.  The Celtics might be capable of making a run of their own later in the year.  If they do, and they make the playoffs with a better than .500 record, that's still a good thing in my book.  It gives the team a solid foundation to build upon going forward.

But if they struggle at times and the Nets (or even the Knicks) pass them up in the Altantic standings, you could see the Celtics bounce from the 4 seed all the way down to the 8 seed or right on out of the playoffs and into the lottery.

The point of all of this is simply to point out that it is a long season and things are fluid.  The Celtics are currently only in the playoff race because the rest of the East is so very bad.  That is starting to shift a bit (hey, at the very least when two East teams play, someone has to get a win) for better or for worse.  Where we are 2-3 months from now will probably look differently than it does now.