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Talkin’ Shortened Schedule Blues

The last two seasons, the Celtics roared out to league-best December records, appeared prohibitive title favorites well into January, and then fell apart after the all-star break.

In 2009-10, the collapse was a calculation. Battling a myriad of injuries and unconvinced their veteran crew could go full speed all season long, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge took their collective foot off the gas pedal and let wins slip away into losses, staggering into the playoffs an also-ran. But the strategy also gave them a second wind and buoyed an inspiring run to the finals against the Lakers.

In 2010-11, the collapse was more of a mystery. The Kendrick Perkins trade clearly affected the team’s composure, as did the need to integrate a number of new players into Boston’s complex offensive system. But there was also the physical aspect and any accounting of last season that doesn’t recognize the Celtics were physically worn down isn’t trustworthy. And it wasn’t just the older guys. Even Rajon Rondo (a team-high 37.1 mpg) saw his play fall off dramatically the last third of the season. And by the playoffs, Kevin Garnett, whose overall 2010-11 season was a renaissance, failed to put together two straight strong games in Boston’s second-round loss to Miami.

So, at first blush, a shorter season is a blessing for this aged core. During this new big three era, the C’s were faced with the prospect of playing 110 or so games on their way to a title. This year, with an exhibition schedule of only 2-3 games (if that) and 16-fewer regular season games, that number comes in around 90. A reduction of that size will save wear and tear, no matter how those games are allocated.

But there are still minefields aplenty for the Celtics.

The 66 regular season games will play out over 124 days and the playoff schedule will be compressed. This means we’ll have:

  • More back-to-backs, which hurt the Celtics last season (they were 7-11 in the second game of a back-to-back — or SEGABABAs, as Hayes dubbed them).
  • The fresh hell that is back-to-back-to-backs. Not seen since the aesthetic masterpiece that was the 1998-99 season, these promise to create some truly unwatchable basketball. Each team will play between one and three sets of three-games-in-three-nights. Legs will be dead, shooting percentages will collapse and injury risk will increase.
  • Playoff back-to-backs. Like other veteran teams, the Celtics have benefited from the NBA’s decompressed playoff schedule, with at least one — and periodically two — off-days between games. It appears that the second round (and perhaps the second round alone) will involve at least one sub-24-hour turnaround between games. It’s unclear if there will be any stretches with two off-days in a row during the playoffs, but it doesn’t appear likely.

So, to summarize: the Celtics will play less games, which is great, but also suffer from far less rest, recovery and practice time, all of which are not.

Once we have a full accounting of the schedule (later this week, apparently) and a better sense of what kind of bench will line up behind the big four (the week after next), we can debate strategy and how best to position this group for a final run at a title.

  • I_Love_Green

    Doc is going to have to do a hell of a job managing these oldies minutes. He'll definitely be resting one or two of them during a 3backer. Its going to be big to see who Danny can sign, to see if they can fill in for one of the Old 4 without us missing them too badly.

  • I_Love_Green

    Oh, and new poll! Yessss finally!

  • Kricky

    SEGABABAs in the playoffs? B2B2Bs?

    Really? (SMH)

    I just don't get why the NBA doesn't just extend the season by a few of weeks. What's the big deal if the playoffs end of July?

    • Jamie

      Olympics are in early July

  • jimmy

    arenas r booked and the olympic team has 2 get 2gether at the end of june

    • Kricky

      thanks I hadn't thought of the Olympics…

  • janos

    when schedule release? i like plan game.

  • Morpheus

    Would y'all be agreeable to giving Iverson one last shot at a title?

    • I_Love_Green

      I love Iverson, he's one of my favorite players of all time, but I just don't think there's a place on this team for him. Unless we're not able to find a serviceable backup guard, and we can sign him to an unguaranteed contract, then maybe I'd consider.

      • Morpheus

        I'd do it. 1 year on veterans minimum

    • ripsonics

      if he is the last piece of the puzzle, then maybe, but If I'm DA i do not make him my first FA sign.

  • phreesh

    You have to think that there's no way Garnett stays healthy over the entire season. Same with O'Neal. Either Doc rests them for 5 games or so or they go down with some sort of malady

  • Batman

    I think we should start JaJuan Johnson every third game on a backtobacktoback
    Throw that man out there!

    • Batman

      but no seriously don't start JJJ but garnett needs a lot of rest i don't want to see a repeat of last year's heat series

      • I_Love_Green

        Actually, its not a bad idea. If JaJaun plays well, and by well I mean doesn't have a negative effect on the team when he's out there, I wouldn't be opposed to giving KG a day off to give Johnson some more playing time.

  • Hall

    Stern is a real trip! I can see this season being hell on a lot of teams.

  • Kricky

    What are we going to do at Center?

    JO gave good minutes in the playoffs. But we can't expect him to give us starter's minutes.

    Maybe we shouldamnesty him? He's on the books for 6 mill this year. I'd like to keep him . But that's money we need to use to sign some young blood.

    • I_Love_Green

      Even if we amnesty JO, we'd still be over the cap and wouldn't be able to use that saved money for any good. Keep Jermaine, and sign 2 younger defensive minded centers.

  • ripsonics

    This concerns me… a lot.

    although i am thrilled to see the Celtics play this year, we were just awful on back to backs. So it might be wise for DA to bring in young scoring ppl who aren't afraid to shoot the ball.. Cue Jamal Crawford. Sign him to a two year deal, and gear up for next year.

    The back to backs are going be dreadful. The team will play well when rested, but without young legs that like to jump around and shoot, this might end disastrous. Lets hope Big Baby didn't gain too much weight this off season.

    Go C's

    MAN IT FEELS GOOD TO WRITE THAT!

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