0.4%. Those are the current, up to the minute odds that the Boston Celtics will make the playoffs. Even the most optimistic Celtics fan now must accept that the team is going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. And that's fine, that was the plan from the moment the Cs dealt Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. It's year one of a rebuild, and the Cs are on track to be just about exactly what Vegas predicted them to be in the pre-season (predicted: 29-53, on pace for 28-54).
But even for the most diehard tank believers -- this sucks. After all, the whole point of rooting against your team for a season is in hopes that they can bounce back quickly, avoiding this situation for years to come. Nobody wants to watch their team play out the string while 16 other teams get ready for the playoffs.
So with all of that said -- why should we keep watching? We know how this story ends, with the Celtics missing the playoffs and taking their shot in the lottery come May 20th, but that doesn't mean that we should stop watching.
Here are my top five reasons to stick with them:
1. Lottery position - Well if you've been reading me at all this season, you had to have known this was going to be on here. I started Wiggins Watch three games into this season, so I kinda sorta have an obsession with the lottery standings, and man, things are getting interesting. Check out the standings. Milwaukee, Philly and Orlando are heading towards the top three spots, but after that it gets wild. The Lakers, Celtics and Jazz are in a three-way tie for fourth place at 22-43, with the Kings just a half game back. Realistically, the Cs will finish somewhere between fourth and seventh in the lottery, which may not seem like that huge of a difference. Only it is. In the #4 spot, the Celtics would have an 11.9% chance at picking first in the draft, and a reasonably healthy 37.8% chance to be in the top-three (crucial in this draft). If they were to be in the #7 lottery spot, those numbers drop to 4.3% and 15% respectively. A monster difference, and one that we will see decided over these next 17 games. Sure, it's not the way any of us want to be looking at the standings this time of year, but it's an interesting storyline, and one that could impact the team for years to come.
2. Rondooo - When Rajon Rondo plays, the Celtics are approximately 1,457% more watchable. Not even opinion, that's science. When he's in the lineup, every offensive possession is a chance to see something you've never seen before, and that alone should keep you watching. It's also been fun to watch Rondo come back with an improved jump shot, potentially setting himself up to be better than ever next season when he gains that first step quickness back.
There's also a slightly more depressing reason to watch Rondo: this could be his last hurrah in Boston. I'm of the belief that he'll be back next season, but you know his name is going to pop up in 15,000 trade proposals this summer, and with Danny Ainge in charge, there's always a chance the trigger finally gets pulled. If so, we have 13 games left to watch Rondo in green (he's unlikely to play in the second game of back-to-backs, of which the Celtics have four remaining).
3. The Bradley/Rondo backcourt - Since Game 5 of the Celtics/Sixers series in 2012, the Cs have played 163 games, yet Rondo and Avery Bradley have appeared together only 15 times. First Bradley was out with a shoulder injury, and then Rondo with the knee, and finally, Bradley again with an ankle.
Well, with Bradley finally closing in on a return -- now is the time to see how this pairing works. AB hits free agency this summer, and the Celts badly need a sample size of games where they share the court to help them decide if they should pay him. The duo had some definite success back in 2011-12, but that was a really long time ago. Excited to see these guys play together, even if it's only 10-12 times down the stretch.
4. Does Stevens keep the team together? - We see it all of the time at this stage of the season. Teams give up when it's clear that they're going to miss the playoffs, getting blown out seemingly nightly, just wishing for the season to end already.
Well, can Brad Stevens prevent that from happening? So far, so good, as the Celtics have not been blown out very often, and their poor efforts seem fewer and farther between than most crappy teams. That plays out in their point differential (a bad, but not terrible -4 per game), and they pass the eyeball test most nights too. Sure, blowouts happen occasionally (I'd like to wipe that Knicks game from my memory), but most nights the effort is there (see the Pistons/Nets wins and the two close Pacers losses recently) even if the talent is not. This is a big test for the rookie head coach to see if he keeps the team playing hard even after they're officially eliminated from playoff contention, and I think he'll pass.
5. Because they're the Celtics and they're about to go away for six months - I'm of the belief that this off-season will be huge. Two first round picks, a trillion future picks to deal, Rondo rumors, Bradley free agency, Kevin Love on the market. The Celtics are going to be amazingly active, and when we see them again in October, they may look very different. So it's not like we have six completely Celtics-free months ahead of us. With that said, games are different, and we're about to go into hibernation.
Thankfully for many folks in Boston, the Bruins are great and the Red Sox are about to start a title defense. But I understand that some people are Celtics or bust, and for them, this is the end of meaningful sports for awhile. And that blows.
But there are still 17 games left on the schedule. 17 games to watch and enjoy, even if they lose 13 of them and guys like Chris Babb are playing minutes that they should not be. It's still the Boston Celtics, and we should still enjoy the fleeting moments of the season. The fact that they suck doesn't change that.
P.S. I wrote this on an airplane and my wi-fi was terrible and we were about to land when I published. May be a little sloppy. Regardless, pretty cool that we can use the internet 35,000 feet above the ground.
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