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Danny Ainge says if the Boston Celtics keep improving, he'd love to make the playoffs

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

With a 16-29 record, you'd think that the Boston Celtics would be completely out of the postseason race, but they are only 2.5 games back from holding a seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After a semi-successful West Coast road trip against some of the NBA's best teams, some fans are hoping off of the tank and onto the playoff train.

But the Celtics are still only 4 games better than the 5th-worst team in the league. There is just not much separating them from having a possible top-5 pick and from being in the playoffs. Danny Ainge was recently asked about the spot the team is in by CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely:

If C's keep improving, Ainge "would love" to make playoffs
So I asked him if he would like to see the Celtics in the playoffs this year?

"That depends," Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told "I would love to see our team in the playoffs, but I don’t want to see us back into the playoffs with a really bad record and not even have a fighting chance. If our team can keep getting better by developing, if we can make some deals at the trade deadline that put us in position to actually get into the playoffs and have a chance to win a playoff series, I think that would be a lot of fun.

Ainge added, "Those are things we’re trying to do. We’re trying to speed up our process of becoming a better team all the time."

That response is as honest as it gets, which I appreciate from Ainge. As far as I'm concerned he hit the nail on the head, because as it stands I think the Celtics would get blown away by Atlanta in a 7-game series, and maybe they'd steal one game against Toronto or Washington.

Sure, the Celtics were extremely competitive against terrific Western Conference teams like Houston, Golden State, and Portland, but don't Celtics fans remember being on that side of things? Often times some of the great Big 3 era teams would play down to the opponent, which could've been the case on the road trip.

I don't intend to take any credit away from what the Celtics accomplished over the trip -- because the grit they showed is one reason why I enjoy watching this roster -- but it's worth pointing out that those types of teams just naturally don't view them as real threats.

And it's obvious that Ainge feels that way too, otherwise he wouldn't have said what he said.

Ainge later told CSNNE that regardless of the team's approach at the trade deadline, the Celtics must learn how to win.

If C's keep improving, Ainge "would love" to make playoffs
"You always have to be looking long term and short term," Ainge said. "You can't just manage one without the other. It's always a juggling act, for sure. They're both equally important. You have to create a culture, you have to create credibility with your organization and your staff and trust. You have to see how players, how they perform. They have to learn how to win. You can't just flip a switch and ‘now let's try to win. You have to learn how to win in this league."

This is precisely the same topic I discussed in an article after Boston's two-game winning streak last week. I wrote about how the players are learning how to trust each other, and how that is a key ingredient in building a healthy winning culture, like it is with any relationship in life.

I don't believe that "winning more than losing" is necessary in learning "how to win," but I certainly think this young Celtics roster must experience winning. Those close losses against Houston and Golden State will help build trust, confidence, and a winning atmosphere, but the actual wins against teams like Portland are necessary to emphasize any positive lessons learned in losses.

Danny Ainge just gets it. This team isn't good enough to win a playoff series, but if a quick-fix opportunity comes before the February 19 trade deadline, they'll be in a position to make the move and suddenly become a dark horse in the Eastern Conference.

And if none of those chances come along, then they could go the other way and trade veterans away to contenders. Regardless of what happens, the Boston Celtics are in a prime position going forward with so many valuable assets in their possession.

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