6 Bold Predictions for Boston Celtics in December of 2013-14 NBA Season
While some fans would have preferred a lesser start to the season in looking ahead to next year's draft, a start to 20013-14 that would rival the Milwaukee Bucks or Utah Jazz, the team has been fun at times and won eight of their first 20 games.
With a slate of 11 more games to go before ringing in the new year, a lot can happen for the men in green.
They finally get a few divisional games to see how they stack up against the so-far abysmal Atlantic Division, as well as another shot at the league's top team in the Indiana Pacers.
There is going to be a lot to look forward to throughout December, and some interesting storylines should develop.
We'll See Rajon Rondo Before the New Year
Call me crazy, but I've learned to take everything that Danny Ainge tells the media with a grain of salt.
When the Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations says that Rondo isn't really nearing a return, I'll choose to think they are waiting to see what happens in the coming days.
If this somewhat oddly shaped roster can manage to get itself over .500 in the next handful of games, which is not a big stretch considering that four of Boston's next six games are against losing teams, Ainge may change his tune. There still isn't any doubt that Rondo is pushing to return to play with it having been 10 months since he last suited up.
The injury occurred back on Jan. 25, meaning that we are approaching one full year of recovery time. If Rondo senses his teammates have a chance to make an impact this season, he'll push harder on the higher-ups to allow him to dress.
Unfortunately, there is no flashy Christmas Day game to feature his return, although the Celtics do play on New Years Eve at 1 p.m., but it isn't a national showcase.
Boston finishes the year with seven of eight games at home, so sometime during that stretch, the Celtics could work Rondo back in.
Jared Sullinger Will Average a Double-Double for the Month
Jared Sullinger averaging a double-double for December seems like a tall order, but Sullinger has been playing very well lately.
In his last five games, Boston's second-year big has averaged 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds, which is just shy of a double-double.
He already has one 12-point, eight-rebound game to work with in December and there are opponents coming up that he'll be able to do some more damage against.
Teams with weak interior games, like the New York Knicks (twice), Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets should present Sullinger with some opportunities to really post big numbers. For the year, he has three double-doubles, and they were monster games.
Sullinger will have plenty of chances to make statements in December. Taking it to guys like Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and David West will be high up on his to-do list. All that extra motivation will only aid his chances to post a double-double December.
Boston Will Be Swept by the New York Knicks
This whole train of embarrassment the New York Knicks have been on really started last postseason with the Boston Celtics.
When Boston beat the Knicks at their own "funeral," and then again in the next game, New York started becoming somewhat of a punch line. The Knicks won that series, but didn't go any farther and have stalled since.
The Knicks had lost nine straight games this season to fall to 3-13 before getting a win over the similarly confused Brooklyn Nets.
That win could have done a lot to bring back New York's confidence. Everything the Knicks did looked better, and even poor Amar'e Stoudemire looked like a basketball player again. Carmelo Anthony was getting teammates involved and they had more than two players scoring with the ball. If that is a turning point for New York, then Boston should look out.
New York next gets another chump game against the Orlando Magic, then plays the hated Celtics twice in five days. If Boston isn't electric, it could serve as part of the re-launching pad for the Knicks' season.
Kelly Olynyk Will Return, but Not Start
In the few games leading up to his injury, Kelly Olynyk was a starter for the Boston Celtics.
Since then, Brandon Bass has slid back into the starting five, seeing considerable minutes defending centers.
Upon Olynyk's return, there may be some ideas on whether or not he should immediately get his starting gig back. With Bass in there since Olynyk went down the Celtics are 4-2, so head coach Brad Stevens may want to see where this unit can get the team while working in Olynyk off the bench.
The height difference is a fairly legitimate concern, but defensively, Bass has more experience and is better right now, even defending true bigs.
Olynyk was shooting an abysmal 10-of-48 from beyond 10 feet, per NBA.com. That doesn't do a lot to open up the paint for Jared Sullinger or for Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley slashes. Bass is shooting a much more respectable 43 percent on 104 of those shots from 10 feet and out, forcing defenders to play him tighter outside the paint.
Olynyk may actually be better suited for the second unit right now. That is a place for him to go and get his shot back on track. He'll be needed more for his offense with a reserve unit that doesn't have a lot of scoring on it.
Carmelo Anthony and Jeff Green Will Form Something
With frustrations mounting for both players on losing teams, both Jeff Green and Carmelo Anthony will get something physical going in December.
There is obvious a history between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, but with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce gone, and Rajon Rondo still disabled, there isn't a whole lot of fire to this Atlantic Division rivalry.
It still feels like Green is just going through the motions in most games. We haven't seen much fire from him, which could be part of his problem. Who better to get the juices going than Anthony?
Green was a part of the Knicks' "funeral" fallout last season and was actually Boston's best player in the playoff series. He spent a lot of time guarding Anthony physically and scored a lot of points at the other end. Those two things may be re-ignited when New York and Boston meet on Dec. 8 and Dec. 13.
The crowds are sure to be in it, and with both teams fighting to make something out of their seasons, the heat will rise. It would be good for Green to get into it with a player like Carmelo—if only to give him some sort of identity for fans to cheer. Right now, he is just a decent scoring guy in a green and white jersey.
Unfortunately for the Boston Celtics, a fair amount of their December competition is on the upswing.
I'm finding it difficult to locate five wins in December for Boston. The Celtics can beat the Brooklyn Nets and they've proven they can beat Cleveland and the Atlanta Hawks, but the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards have looked really good of late. The Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers are head and shoulders above Boston, with the Denver Nuggets not far behind.
I'm not sure how far the momentum from their 4-2 streak can carry them if they run into a similarly swelling Knicks team twice in rapid succession. In between those two games is a rough travel schedule of back-to-back contests in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.
I'll go with 4-7 for Boston the remainder of December, with wins over Brooklyn, Minnesota, Cleveland (in Rajon Rondo's return) and an upset of Denver at home. With a win over Milwaukee already in the bag, that makes for a 5-7 month and a 12-19 record heading into the new year.