Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Boston Celtics had a chance to make a run at the third seed coming out of the All-Star break. They still do, frankly, with just three games separating them and the Indiana Pacers with two matchups still left to be played.
While that’s still in reach, there are more pressing matters for the Celtics.
“You can’t worry about the standings now, it’s too late in the season,” said Kyrie Irving. “Obviously, the four/five spot, but one/two is pretty much locked up, one/two/three. So just play … as long as we get there.”
For Irving, the slog of this season has clearly been grating, as he told reporters “I can’t wait for all this other BS about the regular season, keep getting better, talking over and over and over again about what we can do to keep getting better playing in the regular season, I just want to be at the highest level playing. And that’s what I’m here for.”
“We want to make sure that we’re playing really good basketball,” said Al Horford. “There’s nothing if we’re playing like this and we end up third. I’d rather be playing really good basketball and, maybe not be in that position, but I just want to make sure that our group we’re playing the best way that we can play.”
My, how the goalposts have moved this season.
We went from not just wondering if the Celtics would win 60 games this season, but if they’d eclipse 65, to throwing records and seeding out the window and just hoping that this team is playing well enough to compete in a 7-game, first round series.
Look back at “expert” predictions from the pre-season and see the sea of green in the Eastern Conference column of the Finals’ predictions. You can’t even find the Celtics in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings column right now.
Let’s just say it one more time, for everyone to hear, this season has been a MASSIVE disappointment thus far. I, personally, have never had less fun watching a Celtics team play basketball and with the mix of expectations, anticipation, roster talent and an open Eastern Conference, I don’t think I’ll ever have less fun watching a Celtics team again.
But, ok, now that we’ve said that, let’s carefully read the words of our guy, John Karalis, and the words of players and coaches after last night’s game.
The Celtics have conceded the regular season. And maybe, just maybe, that should make watching the final 20 games of this nightmare a little easier.
Let’s stop screaming at our screens and pounding at our keyboard for every mid-game tweet of frustration and hopelessness. Perhaps I’ll turn off my phone during Friday night’s game so I’m not tempted to continue what has become a 5-month running text dialogue with my brother replete with “this team f****** sucks” statements.
Whether you, or I, or anyone outside of Kyrie Irving thinks that this team has a chance to win a playoff series or three doesn’t matter. Let’s just wait and see if they can. And over the next 20 games let’s see if they come together enough to believe it can happen.
That’s where the goalposts are now. It seems like everyone on the team, after another loss last night, can admit it. The Milwaukee Bucks are so far ahead in the standings that you need binoculars just to see Giannis. The Pacers are playing that perfect brand of inspired, regular season basketball that the Celtics played at times last year. Don’t worry about them and the three or the four seed.
I was disappointed again last night when the buzzer sounded, but I just don’t think it’s worth the energy anymore to see if tonight’s the night that the Celtics completely turn things around. It probably won’t be, and that’s ok. They may not even look like the team we thought they’d be when round one starts, but if they can just grind out one playoff series, maybe that’ll be what it takes for them to take off.
I’m going to stop guessing, stop hanging on each game as a referendum for the season, and just hope for some progress, some better chemistry and maybe some wins against an unforgiving March schedule.
Will you join me?
NBCSports Boston — It’s playoffs or bust for the Boston Celtics
On page 2, we could see Baynes this weekend
“Aron had a great day today, he worked out,” Brad Stevens said of Baynes’ activity in Wednesday’s pregame shootaround. “We’re gonna see how he feels (Thursday). I would say Friday is unlikely, but beyond that he could play in any of the days after that, depending on how he comes out of the day’s workout.”
Baynes originally was under the impression he would be out only through the All-Star break, but has missed the first four games since the All-Star Game.
Considering the trouble the Celtics have had with bigger teams, his return can’t come soon enough.
Herald — Aron Baynes close to return
Aron Baynes can’t play big minutes in every game depending on match-up, but the Celtics have desperately needed his size (see Nurkic, Jusuf), will definitely need his size (Al can’t bang for 7 games against Embiid alone) and absolutely need his heart and his soul.
I hope he comes back this weekend, but I damn sure hope he’s completely healed when he does come back. If that foot contusion becomes some sort of stress-related injury he’s probably done for the season.
The rest of the links:
NBCSports Boston: Brad Stevens admits lack of chemistry has plagued Celtics all season