We’re in the lull before March Madness and Opening Day. The NFL off season is in full swing, and the playoff pictures in both the NHL and NBA are starting to get clearer.
Last year at this time, the Bruins were heading into the playoffs with the best record in the league, looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals after a heart breaking loss to the Blackhawks in game 6.
This year, however, has been a different story. They are fighting to hang on to the 8 spot, and though they have been playing better as of late, they haven’t had the season many of us wanted, or expected.
That brings us to the Celtics. The Celtics lost a good amount of games last year, but it only got them the fifth selection. They seemed to be headed to a similar place again this year, especially after trading away their two biggest stars, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.
But believe it or not, the Celtics aren’t looking towards the lottery this year, they are trying to get into the playoff race, and are within a game or so of doing it.
That’s part of why this team is so fun to watch. The expectations are low, so when they win, it’s a pleasent surprise. Sure, they blew a 26 point lead against the best team in the league (the Warriors) but hey, the Warriors are the best team for a reason.
Starting this year, we knew coach Brad Stevens was going to have to handle a lot of players in another rebuilding year. He’s had a carousel of a bench with new faces seemingly appearing out of thin air. The Celts have an Italian on the team? And his name is Luigi? Really?
Yes really. And he’s pretty good too. He can knock down threes and knows when to take his shot. So does fellow European, Swedish shooter Jonas Jerebko. Another guy who was wasting away on the bench of a bad team has been rejuvenated on this Celtics team. He also can hit the three, and with Olynyk getting back after injury, the Celtics three game has been pretty good.
There’s also Jae Crowder who came over in the Rondo deal and has been on of the more consistent guys on the team (Did I mention he can hit three’s? I see a theme developing)
All of this winning though, has a large part to do with one of Danny Ainge’s best acquisitions of recent memory. Isiah Thomas.
Whoops, wrong guy. I meant Isaiah Thomas. The one who is currently playing in the league, not the former Piston great. This Thomas has an extra A and that A might as well be the grade he gets so far in his Celtics career.
Thomas can score. He can shoot. And he can come up big in the fourth quarter, a time and place where the Celtics and wither away (and still do at times).
He’s done what Rondo couldn’t do. And don’t get me wrong, I loved Rondo, but Rondo is an assist first PG. That worked well when he had Paul Pierce, KG, and Ray Allen to dish the ball to. But when he was one of the guys counted on to score, his game suffered, of course, unless it was a Sunday afternoon game on ABC, where he always seemed to thrive.
Jeff Green was another guy who showed glimpses of being the next “Guy” after Pierce, but couldn’t live up to the expectations set for him, whether that was fair or not. He led the team in scoring at the time of his trade, but never became the Go-To guy many fans believed he could be.
As it gets closer to the end, I’m glad I can watch the Celtics with great interest instead of wondering if they’ll be lucky in the lottery. Plus, Danny has a stockpile of draft picks, so I’m not worried there either. I have a feeling in the next year or two, the Celtics won’t be on the outskirts looking to get into the playoffs, but a tough to play force in the East.