At 22-19, the Boston Celtics currently hold the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Some would argue that it may be time to blow this baby up and get as much value as possible for the players currently under contract but that will surely be departing to other destinations next season — the likely candidates are Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — while others feel as though their best trade chip at the moment is Rajon Rondo and therefore that the Celtics should look to acquire a top flight player in exchange for his services.
The idea of rebuilding in Boston is somewhat popular amongst fans but may not necessarily be the most prudent approach.
The Celtics may only be three games over .500, and merely be situated as the seventh seed in the east, but the team is slowly but surely starting to hit its stride despite the absences of key big men such as Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox.
Any other aging team that would be in the position that Boston is in right now would probably be a good bet to rebuild, but in the case of the Celtics, there is a mean streak and stubbornness that goes along with them that could allow them to in fact make some noise in the postseason.
The best example of this came Monday night at Staples Center, when Doc Rivers’ squad played the Los Angeles Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back in Los Angeles.
Boston had the ball and foul was called, which brought play to a halt. Kevin Garnett had the ball in his hands on the baseline and was getting ready to fire away a jump shot, but saw DeAndre Jordan getting ready to jump and block the ball –basically a goaltending during a dead ball situation, an intimidation tactic made famous by KG himself — so instead he faked the jumper and went in trying to dunk the ball on Jordan. DeAndre did the smart thing and pushed Garnett while he was up in the air, sending a clear message that he would not allow the act of defiance. As usual, players got heated, coaches screamed and then play resumed.
This may have looked like a small harmless moment in an NBA game, but it was in fact a battle of wills. Although Jordan technically got the better of the Big Ticket in this situation, Garnett still sent out a message that he would not back down and wouldn’t allow any opponent to get any type of perceived mental advantage. And that’s when and where you could see that the Celtics still have their edge.
Their record may not indicate it at the moment, but they still carry the same swagger, confidence and mental toughness needed to be successful at the NBA level.
For those that haven’t been playing attention, the Boston Celtics have won seven of their past 10 games, with their three losses coming at Oklahoma City, at Philadelphia and at the Los Angeles Lakers. The team is still competing and still leaves you with the impression that winning the title is still their goal this season and that matters in the grand scheme of things.
Rajon Rondo has been the best Celtic this season but Kevin Garnett has slowly been coming around and playing good basketball as the team’s starting center. An argument could be made that should Boston make it to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings that they could in fact be favored to win a series against either Philadelphia, Indiana or Orlando.
Granted, it will be difficult for them to improve their playoff seeding given their brutal remaining schedule. 16 of their remaining 25 games will be on the road, and they will have games at Denver, at Atlanta, at Minnesota, versus Miami, versus San Antonio, at Chicago, at Indiana, versus Philadelphia, at Miami, versus Atlanta, at New York, versus Orlando, at Atlanta and versus Miami one final time.
That tough stretch may be cause for pause and may get the front office to pull the trigger on a trade by the Thursday trade deadline, but if the Celtics can manage to stay afloat during that torrid stretch of games and remain healthy, they have the one thing that no other contender in the Eastern Conference has: they have been to the mountaintop and understand what it takes to get back there.
Thus, when the Celtics take on the Warriors tonight at Oracle Arena, just remember that they are already battle tested and that their defense may essentially be the determining factor in the outcome of the contest, as it always is.
Let’s see if Doc Rivers can extract one last magical run out of these proud men…
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].