A few weeks ago, the Boston Celtics were a team preparing to either make a potentially franchise-ruining blockbuster trade or accept its fate as a lottery team and—similarly—start making trades.
It's amazing what a couple of weeks can do. Now, the Celtics are a team whose sole mission is to stay exactly the same.
Overall, December was a trying month for Boston. It still didn't have Avery Bradley back, its Ray Allen-replacement role players couldn't settle into a rhythm and the team couldn't play defense to save its life. According to the rumor mill, it started considering the idea of bringing in certified chemistry-killer DeMarcus Cousins, even if it meant parting ways with some of the team's biggest stars.
Overall, Boston went 5-10 from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2. They stood at a depressing 14-17 after absorbing a 93-83 loss to Memphis at the beginning of the month.
But then, something changed. Bradley returned, the chemistry clicked, the team rediscovered how to play defense and it reeled off six consecutive wins, including a few big ones against Indiana, at New York and against Houston.
Now, less than two weeks after that loss to the Grizzlies, things are much different for this team. Now, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge's plan to keep Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo together for one more run actually seems like it could still pan out. Now, the Celtics are 20-17, they know they can beat the toughest team in their division on the road, without Rondo, and no longer are they seriously considering franchise-altering trades.
Or at least, they shouldn't be.
At the beginning of the week, Ainge told The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn that he's "content" with Boston's roster as it stands now. That would suggest that there's no Cousins deal in the works, and no Rudy Gay deal in the works either.
Ainge told Washburn:
"I think it’s obvious the team has played more inspired. And that was a big part of the underachievement the first part of the year to now. So hopefully we can continue to play inspired."
Just because the Celtics have been playing well for a couple of weeks doesn't mean that season-long success is guaranteed, but it's definitely encouraging. It suggests that this team is starting to find its identity, even if it took a while, and it suggests that the dismal first two months of the season were not an accurate indicator of what this team is capable of.
It certainly suggests that a massive trade isn't the answer for this team.
Team chemistry is a delicate balance. Most teams can't win without it, and it's hard to find it. Right now, finally, the Celtics have it. Guys are settling into their roles, they're getting comfortable, they're finding ways to win even when they don't have all of the necessary parts available. They still don't know what kind of team they're going to be with both Bradley and Chris Wilcox healthy, or what kind of team they're going to be when Rondo stops getting suspended for bumping refs.
Right now, the Celtics are winning, they're inspired and they're working together. Something's clicking, and changing around the pieces right now—when things are finally starting to come together—could send everything back in the other direction.
As Ainge said in the Globe, this team looks like it has turned the corner. Why change it up now?
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