To tank or not to tank? That question is so 2014.
Last year there was great debate and gnashing of teeth over the NBA's "tanking" problem. Then the Sixers showed the world what tanking really looks like and nobody bothers the Magic, Jazz, and Celtics of the world anymore. We were able to clear up the semantic confusion and understand the difference between tanking and rebuilding.
This past summer many of us were lured into the mythical promise of fireworks and a quick return to contending. Even as we saw Ainge's "Love labor lost" there was still some hope for near-future fun as long as a healthy Rajon Rondo was dropping dimes.
However, we sent all those dimes down to Dallas and we got back a handful of nickels in return. Now we've got more picks, players, and flexibility than we currently know what to do with but we know we aren't winning many games this year. Ainge saw a few running plays get stuffed at the line, attempted a safe screen play for no gain, and quickly decided to send in the punting unit. Better luck next drive.
So now we are focused solely on the future. I mean, sure we could (in theory) package some of our picks and players together for a star or two at the trade deadline this season. But unless something really weird happens, the stars we want aren't going to be available in 2 months.
What will be available in the next 2 months is landing spots for Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and any number of rented Celtics players. If possible, hoarder Ainge will add to his stockpile of draft picks and the league may decide to award the Celtics and the Sixers the entire 2nd round of the draft.
Speaking of the draft, there are a few extra-long sleeved young lads skipping college classes right now that would look great in Celtic green next year. But don't dare ask me to get my hopes up on lottery luck. Thrice bitten, 4th shy for me. I'm just going to assume that we'll get the worst pick position possible and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, with the way the Leastern Conference is going, we might be in the playoff hunt whether we like it or not. We are currently just a half game behind the firesale Nets for the 8th spot.
Granted, there's still some time for the Bobcats to start playing like the Hornets they were supposed to be this year. There's a good chance that the Pacers will leapfrog the Magic and Celtics. Shoot, even the Pistons could get a no-more-Smoove bounce that puts them back on the right track this year.
Still, the Celtics still have good pieces and a growing and improving coach and they'll actually be trying to win basketball games. That's great and I'm happy to root for them in each individual game. Meanwhile, in my heart of hearts I'll be back to silently embracing losses for the draft implications. Fret not for me, I've got the mental and emotional gymnastics down from last year. You are all welcome to root your own way, this is just how I cope.
It will still be entertaining to see how this team develops. It is unequivocally Brad Stevens' team now. How each young player fits into his style and system will be key elements to future hold vs. sell decisions. Marcus Smart will now get the fire hose of starting point guard defensive assignments (including his former short-term mentor). Sully will keep launching 3's and throwing his posterior around. Kelly will keep trying to convince us he's a guard in a 7 footer's body. The new guys will formally introduce us to their games. Hey, we might even see James Young launching 3's somewhere South of Portland.
This could be a lot of fun. Or at least as fun as a season of losses can be.
Does Danny have a plan in place? Well, yes and no. He's got countless paths that he could follow from here on forward. He's got all the options in the world. In fact, you could say that there is no road ahead, only options.
Yup, where we're going, we won't need roads. We're going back to the future!!!