We are now more than halfway through the season and this is a very critical month for the Celtics to see if they are going to have a chance to make it into the playoffs. The Celtics wrapped up a very forgetful month of January with a 2-15 record with a combination of a brutal west coast trip, too many injuries, a few trades and 10-day contracts coming into play. This has been a very unusual season I have been through this season with the Celtics, but it is not too late to right the ship and bounce back for a playoff push in a weaker Eastern Conference. Despite the Celtics currently have the 3rd worst record in the NBA and would have a top-3 pick in this summers draft (pending the unreliable draft lottery process), they are only 6 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the 8th playoff spot entering Sundays game against the Orlando Magic.
After last Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics took Thursday off and went hard with back-to-back practices on Friday and Saturday to prepare themselves for the Orlando Magic in Sunday’s matinee showdown. Brad Stevens had been looking forward to the back-to-back practices after the loss last Wednesday and was very happy with the results from both days. It is definitely deja vu all over again this season with a cluster schedule in one month and a light schedule in the following month.
Both Rajon Rondo and Brad Stevens has stated how the month of February can affect the Celtics’ playoff hopes.
“We only play 11 games, I think, this month of February…A lot of winnable games,” said Rajon Rondo after Friday’s practice. “I don’t think we can use the excuse of beating ourselves anymore. We have to come out and execute and try to get some wins. We’re not too far out of the playoffs, and we’ll keep hope alive.”
Rajon Rondo is referring to 4 out of those 11 games facing teams that are currently below .500 on the season. The Celtics will play six games prior to the All-Star break and will finish February on a 4-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz.
Brad Stevens is trying to stay as positive as he can and he is doing a great job like he has all season. Stevens puts a lot of emphasis on learning from mistakes and just move on. He also is hoping that the Celtics can really band together with now a healthy roster and legit chance at making a roaring comeback into the playoffs.
“As far as the last month goes, it’s in the books, and so you move forward and try to get better,” said Brad Stevens. “We have 11 games this month, and starting Sunday you hope that as we continue to get healthy, that we can play our best.”
The ongoing debate continues with many Celtics fans whether making the playoffs this season is what’s going to be the best option for the future of the franchise. Some fans feel that it’s beneficial for the Celtics to just throw the rest of the season away in hopes of landing a top draft pick. I’m not criticizing those fans, but I feel that they are extremely misguided views especially on how the NBA draft lottery system works. If it was any other league, it would be that simple where the draft system goes accordingly to how teams finished in the standings. The NBA draft lottery can even prevent an 0-82 team from landing the #1 overall pick. I remember the humiliating 2006-07 season where the Celtics finished with the 2nd worst record in the NBA and were expected to pick Kevin Durant with the #2 pick if the lottery didn’t come into play. Thanks to the convoluted lottery system, the Celtics instead were stuck with the #5 overall pick where they drafted Jeff Green (later traded to the Sonics for Ray Allen).
I’m completely against the idea of intentionally losing games for obvious reasons, but I feel that this current Celtics team is fully capable of making a strong playoff push. I’m not just saying that because I’m very close to the team, but the foundation of a strong final two months of the season starts right now in February and the whole team is fully aware of this importance.