The Celtics won again last night. Ho hum. Just a little four-game winning streak for a team that some thought would struggle to win four games total.
OK, so obviously that’s an exaggeration, but isn’t that what this is all about? The Celtics lose their first four, and they’re the most pathetic team this city has ever seen. A bunch of disjointed parts inspired by selfishness. Bound for Tankville, whether they like it or not.
They win four straight? Break up the Celtics! These guys get it. They are egoless and selfless. The reason we love basketball.
The swing has a great chance to continue trending upward on Wednesday, as Boston hosts the very beatable Bobcats . . . just in time for an imposing five-game stretch that begins with Friday’s home game against the 5-2 Blazers, is followed by trips to Minnesota, San Antonio and Houston, and wraps up back at home against the undefeated Pacers. At that point, it’s entirely possible that the Celtics will be 5-9, fresh off a five-game losing streak after a five-game winning streak after a four-game losing streak.
But through all the craziness, two things have become clear and will very likely stay that way over the course of the next 74 games.
1. This team is a lot of fun to watch: At least part of that is a matter of expectations. Last year, and for the better part of the post-championship years that preceded it, the regular season was a formality in Boston. It was about treading water, preserving bodies, and at its best, jockeying for playoff position. Either way, the players barely cared, their eyes were always on something bigger, and it was evident in their performance. Even the victories, a lot of them at least, were ugly. The big wins over Miami, LA and/or any other contender? They were fun, but it was hard to get lost in the moment, always knowing that these were merely battles building up to an impending playoff war. And listen, that’s not a complaint. In many ways, that’s life as an NBA contender, especially one built like the Celtics were, with a window that was rapidly closing from the start.
But now that those championship expectations have been lifted, the moment is all that the Celtics have. Even the bad times can be viewed through the prism of “hey, it can only get better” instead being stained by the fear of lost opportunity. It’s just fun.
2. Those championship expectations were lifted for a very good reason. These Celtics have no shot at winning the title. In other words, they’re better off missing the playoffs, and jumping into this year’s lottery.
If you need some convincing, turn on ESPN tonight from 7:30-11:30 for a college basketball double-header that’s basically a 2013 NBA Lottery preview. It’s called the Championship Classic, and it’s two games featuring four Top 5 teams and three freshman all projected, at the very least, as top-five picks this summer.
The first game matches No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan State, and the player to watch is Julius Randle.
Randle’s a 6-foot-9, 250-pound freshman from Dallas, and a consensus top-three pick this summer. He’s big, already with an NBA body, but don’t let his linebacker physique fool you. Randle can get out and run the floor. He can handle the ball. And if you watched that video you know he can finish. He’s been compared to everyone from Jamal Mashburn to Lamar Odom to Chris Webber to a motivated Derrick Coleman. He’ll be matched up (if not directly) against Michigan State senior big man Adreian Payne, another projected first-round pick.
The second game is No. 4 Duke against No. 5 Kansas, but for NBA purposes it’s Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins.
Parker’s a 6-8 swingman who’s been compared to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce, in the sense that he doesn’t have blazing speed but is still very athletic, incredibly smart, can get to the hoop and hit a jump shot.
And then there’s Wiggins.
The Canadian prep star’s long been considered the clear-cut No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft but has started slowly compared to his freshmen counterparts. Some scouts are suggesting he might slip, with the biggest issue that he doesn’t play hard. Either way, tonight will be the biggest test of Andrew Wiggins young career. If he doesn’t play hard in this one, then he never will. To this point, Wiggins has been compared to the likes of Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant, but tonight on the national stage, is when he’ll take the next step in becoming Andrew Wiggins.
Everyone will be watching, and should be hoping that somehow, someway, the Celtics find themselves in a position to hand one of these three guys a green jersey next summer. If you think it’s fun now, just wait.
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