Many pundits, including CBA Rain Man Larry Coon, anticipate that this summer’s lockout will extend into the season about as long as the 1999 one did: until January/early February. This would limit the season to about 50 games.
Nobody is excited about this. It’s horrible. What will we do Christmas Day, for instance? Talk to our families??? Best not to even think about it.
But if we’re to accept the reality of a lockout, is it okay to recognize that the Celtics stand to benefit more than possibly any other team?
The propensity of the C’s to get off to hot starts is extremely well-known. Over the last four seasons, they’ve reliably jumped out of the gate as the Eastern Conference’s best team, only to watch their hold on the top seed dwindle in the season’s final weeks. This pattern holds because the Celtics are one of the league’s oldest teams, and their bodies wear out as the year goes on and they also get super bored.
But how tired/bored could they be in just fifty games? Here’s a look at how these Celtics have historically performed in that timeframe:
In three out of four of those seasons, the Celtics were cozily in first place in the Eastern Conference at the cutoff point. The exception, of course, was 2009-2010, when the Celtics faded earlier than usual and lost 13 of 22 games after starting 23-5. That skid put them in third place in the East, one game behind the Magic, at the 50-game mark.
But a lockout wouldn’t just represent a shorter season: it would also come with a longer offseason and, in all likelihood, a much shorter preseason. That preseason abbreviation isn’t great news for the C’s, who are going to be patronizing the Dollar Store to fill out their bench and could use some time to acquaint new players with the system.
But the extra rest for the starters? That could be huge. Sure, they’ll be a couple months older in January than they would be in October, but their creaky bonebags will benefit from the extra time allowed to recover from this exhausting season they just endured.
The Celtics core, in what will almost certainly be their final year together, will likely be better rested next season than in any of the previous four. So here’s the question: do you add a couple helpful pieces from this year’s free-agent market to help them make a run, even at the potential cost of taking a flier on a major FA signing a year from now?
I’m not positive where I stand on this. I’m definitely not sold on mortgaging this year to leave the roster entirely free to sign a star later on. We’ve seen that Paul, Howard, and Williams aren’t enough to win championships on their own, especially with mediocre pieces around them. But there isn’t that much desirable talent available, and the pieces the Celtics could really use will probably cost a lot more than their actual value.
So let’s focus on spreading the good news: when the Celtics make the playoffs next year, they’ll probably have 32 more games in the tank than they did this year.