ATLANTA With the all-star break less than a month away, the Boston Celtics find themselves for the second year straight year fighting their way from a sub-.500 hole record-wise.
That team rebounded with a strong regular season finish after the all-star break that catapulted them into the postseason and eventually the Eastern Conference finals.
While there are indeed parallels to be drawn between the two, it becomes a dangerous comparison if relied upon too much.
And no matter how much Doc Rivers preaches that this team is different than that, his fellow coaching brethren repeatedly remind him that the C's have had their problems during past regular seasons only to play some of their best basketball when the games truly mattered - the playoffs.
"Not this group," Rivers said following Friday's 123-111 double overtime loss at Atlanta. "The groups in the past, yeah, we had to do that. We had to not play Shaq many minutes, or rest Rasheed (Wallace, now with the New York Knicks) and Kevin (Garnett) and Ray (Allen, now with the Miami Heat) and Paul (Pierce). We got nine new guys here. They've never done this."
But Rivers wouldn't rule out that some of his players may in fact be relying on the C's track record for bouncing back from slow starts, as for the reason they don't play more consistently or with a greater sense of urgency.
"They may be thinking that," Rivers said. "If they are, it's an error."
Kevin Garnett agrees that past success doesn't necessarily make it an accurate predictor of the future.
During the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, the Celtics went into the all-star break with a record of 15-17 only to emerge from it by posting a 24-10 record.
"Man, we can't rely on that," Garnett said. "That's the past. This is a whole different group of guys. Guys in the past, that's the past. We're dealing with the present. If we're sitting around waiting on that, then that's a joke. It's about now. It's not about tomorrow, it's about now. Everybody has to look at themselves and see what they can do better to help this team."
Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Celtics' ability to turn around their season a year ago.
Ditto for Garnett, whose move to center full-time was arguably the biggest adjustment the C's made during their post all-star break surge last season.
But this season has presented the Celtics with a different set of challenges that will make the team's efforts to rebound from a poor start that much tougher.
Boston lost games last season in part because they rested players, similar to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich has done at times this season with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
But there has been no reduction in minutes or sitting core guys this season.
Which means they may not necessarily be as fresh for this second half run as they were last year or in past seasons.
'I don't try to compare any teams of the past of how we turned things around," Rondo said. "It's a different year."
But there is one thing he would like to carry over from past turn-arounds.
"Like in the past, we do have to stay positive," Rondo said. "Try to continue to move forward and dig our way out of this hole."