Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
When the Boston Celtics opened the month of February by winning four of their first five games, feasting on the league’s cellar dwellers, there were some Boston fans that squirmed watching the team climb in the standings. The team’s post-All-Star break trip out west helped put those observers at ease.
Boston wrapped up a winless four-game trek out west on Monday with a 110-98 loss to the Utah Jazz. The Celtics are now 0-13 on the road against the Western Conference, which is a big reason why they now own the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
According to Hollinger Playoff Odds formula, Boston currently owns a mere 1.4 percent chance at a playoff berth. While Boston players have clung to the hope that a playoff charge remains possible, the Celtics find themselves 8 ½ games out of the last postseason spot in the East with three teams in front of them in that quest.
The challenge for first-year coach Brad Stevens is keeping his players engaged on a nightly basis even when that playoff carrot is not there for motivation. The Celtics return home this week, but the schedule does not ease up and Boston players must soon embrace the idea of getting better each night, even if the losses continue to mount.
Of Boston’s next 16 games through the end of March, 13 are against currently playoff-bound opponents. The other three include a Detroit team trying to fight its way into a playoff spot in the East, a trip to New Orleans (remember Boston hasn’t won on the road against the West), and a visit from the Knicks.
The question over Boston’s final 24 games becomes, where will the team finish among the lottery-bound teams? There’s a cluster of five squads — Celtics, Lakers, Jazz, Knicks, and Kings — all within 2 ½ games of each other. Boston was ahead of two of those teams (Lakers, Kings) coming out of the All-Star break, but head-to-head losses saw the Celtics drop a couple spots on the ladder.
ESPN Boston – Lottery ticket: C’s winless out west
When you’re in the midst of a rebuilding year, you’ll see all sorts of eye-popping stats get tweeted and reported all over the place. Usually they’re not good. Or maybe they are, all depending upon your perspective. For those fans that stay up and abuse themselves by watching every single brutal minute of these late games, it builds a tough emotional callous to wear like a badge of honor when they day finally arrives that your team is a contender again. You can walk around town with your head held high (or send out proud tweets) that you were there for every atrocious turnover, brick, and lack of defense. As the losses mount and the season inches closer to an end, there is that light at the end of the tunnel: the lottery.
My guess is that the bars and restaurants on Canal St. and the surrounding Garden areas might be booking lottery parties much like they did in 2007. As Chris Forsberg points out above, each loss is truly a good thing. Only because it mathematically increases their chances at maybe getting that elusive combination of ping pong balls. The players (well the ones that are available) aren’t tanking. Brad Stevens certainly isn’t tanking. But as fans, this is what you want, correct?
Sure you don’t openly root for the C’s to lose. And it’s actually impressive to go 0-13 thus far against the western conference. They haven’t won out west in a full calendar year and have only two more chances (Dallas, New Orleans) to rectify that. The month of March isn’t very forgiving either, as Forsberg points out. So for those of you that play ESPN’s mock lottery on a daily basis, you can go ahead and plan on watching a lot of NCAA hoops, with better hopes of getting one of the big name studs. Even Mike Gorman, on the Toucher & Rich Show this morning on 98.5 said that he understands where C’s fans are coming from in terms of rooting for losses, saying “Every time I see the kid from Duke play I’m like wow, it’d be nice to get him.”
The Ides of March are approaching and it appears they will be relentless on the C’s, even if they start to get their injured players back in Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley.
Page 2: Rondo misses Kings game to stay in LA with family
The Celtics are not taking it as a major issue, but the team is still hoping to straighten things out with Rajon Rondo after his decision to stay in Los Angeles and not accompany the team to Sacramento for Saturday’s game.
While some were displeased by the move, for which Rondo did not receive official permission, others pointed out he was not scheduled to play in the game anyway (on the second night of a back-to-back), and that he may have simply been making some assumptions based on precedent. Multiple sources say he remained in LA for a birthday celebration. He turned 28 on Saturday.
The captain didn’t want to get into the matter before last night’s 110-98 loss to the Jazz.
“We already talked about it,” Rondo said. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
That doesn’t appear to be the case. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said yesterday he is still looking into the situation.
“I plan on talking to Rondo when he gets back into town,” he told the Herald. “I’ll find out more about what went into it, and then we’ll handle it internally. We handle all of those kind of issues internally.”
The possibility exists that Rondo could be fined, but if not, the team will likely gain a more well-defined set of rules from this.
Among that which could have factored into Rondo’s thinking was he had been left home from the trip to Milwaukee for the Feb. 10 game on the end of a back-to-back as he returns from a torn right ACL. Then there was the birthday plan.
“His wife and kids were with him in LA, and there were some other people who came in,” a source said. “I think he felt obligated to them, too, and what they had planned for his birthday.”
Boston Herald – Rajon Rondo under scrutiny
I think the boss (John) put it best when I discussed this with him this morning: If you’re a Rondo fan, it’s probably best not to listen to Felger and Mazz today. This is exactly the type of story that is fodder for sports radio talk. While on the surface it seems like a bonehead move by the newly anointed team captain, especially since Danny Ainge wasn’t aware of it and seems a bit miffed, it could possibly be chalked up to miscommunication. Gorman said he didn’t even know that Rondo didn’t travel with the team and said he wasn’t going to hold Rondo’s feet to the fire on this one, especially since he’s been traveling with the team and rehabbing all year (save for the Milwaukee game). He also said that if he wanted to stay back in LA to celebrate his birthday with family and friends, especially if everyone knew it was a planned day off, then he was fine with it.
Either way, it will add fuel to the anti-Rondo faction and that’s not surprising. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of it, but in all likelihood there won’t be much.
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