The 2012 winter season has been devoid of holiday cheer for the Boston Celtics. After 26 games, the Celtics are 13-13 and reeling going into a December 25 matchup with the Nets. With Christmas right around the corner, the C's wish list is a bit longer than the team has been used to in recent years.
Aside from a time machine that could whisk the aging lineup back to 2008 or a medical breakthrough that negates the effects of getting older, many of the Celtics' hopes are still achievable with proper focus and management. The following is a composition of three special requests from Boston to whoever you believe is responsible for bringing holiday happiness.
Let's start out small and work our way up to the biggest wish of all.
Healthy Return of Avery Bradley
The return of young shooting guard Avery Bradley has been highly anticipated and seen as a potential turn around point for the Celtics this season. Coming off of two offseason shoulder surgeries, Bradley's addition to the lineup should give Boston an immediate boost.
As with any player rejoining his team after a serious injury, the Celtics need to be extremely careful with how they handle his minutes. Bradley is hungry for action and determined to make an impact, but risking a further injury from overuse would only handicap the Celtics' future.
In that way, Boston's first Christmas wish is very much in its own control. Coach Doc Rivers needs to have a strong handle on Bradley's initial limitations and adjust his role accordingly.
In order to get the most from their blossoming young guard, the Celtics need to protect him and ensure he reaches 100 percent.
Knicks Return to Earth
Perhaps one of the most concerning factors of Boston's 2012-13 campaign is the improved talent around the league relative to Boston's lineup.
The Celtics are a team used to being the top dog in the Atlantic division and near the top of the conference. At this point in the season, Boston has limped into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Looking up at who's in front of them, the New York Knicks pose the most immediate playoff threat.
Everybody knows that coming out of the Eastern Conference will involve beating the defending champion Miami Heat. However, the Knicks—before the final result of a December 23 battle with Minnesota—hold a 19-7 record and have looked like the most likely rival to Miami in the East.
Assuming the Celtics jump at least one spot before the end of the season—something tells me they'll find a way to jump Milwaukee—they will most likely face the Knicks in the first round.
The Knicks' dominance is an unusual development and one that must change by season's end if the Celtics intend to survive multiple rounds in the playoffs. The integration of Amar'e Stoudemire back into New York's lineup is the next hurdle that the Knicks will have to overcome.
Although the C's are surely a scary first-round opponent for all teams because of their experience and veteran presence, they would fare well to reduce the resistance they face before bumping into Miami.
In any case, if the Knicks continue to play as well as they have thus far, Boston will likely be eliminated before they get a shot at the reigning champs. For that reason, the C's should be wishing for New York to encounter some struggles and at least temporarily lose their way.
A Big Man Not Named Santa
Boston has been repeatedly exposed on the glass this season, ranking last in team rebounding with an average of 38.28 per game. Not only that, but the current personnel forces traditional power forward Kevin Garnett to be the team's starting center.
Despite stretching Miami to seven games in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals behind gutsy performances from Rajon Rondo and KG, the Celtics haven't appeared ready to win the NBA Finals since trading away defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins.
Unfortunately, Boston's biggest midseason wish would involve making a trade. And making a trade would involve having legitimate trade pieces.
Brandon Bass' contract is likely too expensive for other teams, Paul Pierce and KG are too old and Rondo has been deemed the future of the team. That leaves the likes of Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, rookies and draft picks.
Boston will not win a title this season unless they land a top-tier big man, or at least one with significant inside presence, prominent rebounding skills and significant scoring ability.
Sacramento Kings 6'11" DeMarcus Cousins' recent attitude problems may make him a more attainable target than before, but a quick look around the league leaves few remaining options.
Keep on wishing, Celtics, for only Christmas magic can save the 2012-13 season.