This is crazy. It defies all early season expectations. The Celtics were not supposed to be that great at the start of the year and when Ainge traded away Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green it appeared that all eyes would be focused on the draft at this point in the season. Instead, improbably, we're focused on the playoff race.
The Rondo and Green trades were supposed to signal the season’s end, sinking the Celtics deeper into the tank, only a funny thing happened on the way to the lottery. "We’ve been in every game, except the Cleveland game, after the All-Star break," said Bradley, the longest-tenured member of the Celtics at age 24, "so it shows that we’re making strides and we’re continuing to be a better team. I think it all starts from Brad [Stevens]. Brad is getting us all together, having us believe in one another."
Keep in mind, the ultimate goal is to get better. This young team is indeed getting better. Day by day, week by week. And with such a young team and so much roster turnover and so many injuries, what can you do but tip your hat to Brad Stevens. Much like his team, he seems to be getting better and better as he continues to grow into his role and tap into the prodigious potential he's shown.
He gets the most out of his players by continuing to preach sound, fundamental truths and the guys have completely bought in.
"We have 15 guys on one page. We have to be that way. We have to make timely plays. We have to play possession to possession, and that gives us a chance to win," Stevens said. "The fun part is doing that and then getting that chance, and getting over the hump in some of these games."
The Celtics are right in this playoff mix and they've got momentum on their side (7-3 in the last 10) while some of their competitors are starting to slide (Pistons have lost 8 in a row, Nets have lose 5 in a row). There's still a lot of basketball games to be played but this team seems up for the challenge.
If they get into the playoffs, that will be a huge learning opportunity for this young team. If they don't, they'll at least have a solid foundation to build upon headed into the offseason.