Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics are off to a slow-start, but that should be of little concern for fans
In the four seasons that the Boston Celtics Big Three 2.0 existed in Boston before the lockout and condensed season, they were one of the best teams in basketball before Christmas Day. They made a tradition of starting out fast, gaining a big lead in the Eastern Conference and then laying off the gas pedal a little bit and secure their spot in the top four seeds with an Atlantic Division Championship. This was more the case in the later seasons of their reign in the Eastern Conference. The 2007-08 season won 62 games and was the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and the 08-09 team likely would have continued to put the foot on the pedal before if it wasn’t for Kevin Garnett’s knee injury that caused him to miss most of the rest of the season. The facts remain this; the Boston Celtics have been more concerned with getting into the playoffs then playing for better match-ups.
This was no more apparent than last season as the Boston Celtics in the condensed season slogged to a below .500 record as February’s All-Star Game came and went. There was questions about the future of the organization and trade-talks surrounding everyone from enigmatic point-guard Rajon Rondo and even the captain of the team and the longest tenured player Paul Pierce. The Celtics stood firm, got a couple lucky breaks – the breakout of Avery Bradley most notably – and ended up winning the Atlantic Division and making the Eastern Conference Finals.
Last season can highlight the changing Celtics’ philosophy as well as this season can. Had it had been a normal season, their poor start last season would have taken them right up to Christmas, an odd sight for the NBA’s best pre-Christmas team of the last four seasons. This season, the Boston Celtics are struggling in the sense that they are not normally a plodding .500 basketball team at this point in the season. They are missing key guys – most notably Avery Bradley for the second time in one post – the older legs are playing less minutes, and they aren’t fully executing down the stretch like they used to do. Normally, these have been problems that have reared their ugly head in the early part of the season. Among those reasons is the changing roster of the Boston Celtics, the most diverse it has been since the ’08 season, but in reality the poor start should not be as big of a concern because a less deep Celtics’ team did the same thing last year and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
If there is something to be concerned about it is that the Celtics might be treading water when it comes to their playoff seeding. The success in the playoffs has happened because they have won the Atlantic, got into a mid-seed, and convinced themselves they would take down the top seed in the second round. The Atlantic, and the Eastern Conference in general, is better in 2012-2013. Brooklyn, New York, and Philadelphia have been better than advertised so far and the Celtics sit at fourth in the Atlantic Division. What was the weakest division in basketball has quickly become one of its tougher ones. This is where the concern of the slow start comes in. Nobody is really doubting whether the Boston Celtics will make the playoffs, the question is where they will make the playoffs. As much as Celtics’ fans and the Celtics’ players are confident and convinced they could beat Miami or New York in a seven game series in the first round, it’s not exactly the best course of action to make it all the way to the NBA Finals.
Ultimately, the Celtics slow start should be of no concern right now. It’s simply the evolution of an older roster that has been taking place over the last two seasons. If the Celtics hit the All-Star break and are still struggling to win and close out games, then there would be reason to raise concern and perhaps speculate a trade option for the team. The Boston Celtics only concern is making the playoffs and they are still on the right track to get that done.