Here we are, winners of 6 out of our last 10 games and trying to right our ship, lets see what the writers from Celticslife think in our newest addiction of 5 on 5:
1. The Celtics have been playing really well lately (other then that stinker the other night). What has been the difference?
Terry P: Jeff Green. Now look, I have been hard on him PLENTY and still want to trade his contract, but he has been ballin' much better lately. He had games where he scored 16, 14, and 11 points during our win streak and started contributing in other categories. He has been dunkin' over players and playing with great efficiency. Don't forget, a year ago he just had surgury on his heart. Give him a chance, I bet his best basketball is yet to come.
Mike W: Avery Bradley is the difference, but not just within his own game. Bradley's return reverts everyone to their real roles. Courtney Lee and Jason Terry no longer have to try to do things they aren't capable of. He allows them to play within themselves in the second unit, which has give that whole grouping more sure footing. They have won 2 or 3 games for Boston of late and there is a complete feeling about them now.
Karl: This is going to sound generic but the difference is Avery Bradley. His defensive energy has an affect on the entire team. I think this has has also motivated Courtney Lee to play better as he knows he'll have to, to get any PT. Jeff Green has also stepped up as of late. If these guys are all clicking come playoff time watch out.
Jung: The sexy answer may be Avery Bradley, but that is only one part of it. The role players on this team are just flat out playing better. With Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo all playing well so far it was up to the bench to give him an extra boost, which they did not do in the beginning of the season. Better chemistry and more effort oozed from the bench these last couple of games.
Eric: The difference is solidifying the roles. Players know where they are going to play night in and night out. No more lineup shuffling. Barring an injury, continuity should be the word of the day for Boston to have any kind of attempt at Banner 18. Coming into the season, everyone talked about how great the Celtics' bench was, well now that Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are actually on the bench it's started to click.
2. Important part of the season is coming up to end the month. We got the Bulls, Pistons, Cavs, Knicks, Hawks, Heat, Kings. How will we fair?
Terry P: Well its obvious that I hope we beat the teams we are suppose to beat (Pistons, Cavs, Kings). The Bulls beat teams that should lose too, so tonigh'ts game will be tougher then you think. I say we split against the Knicks and Heat and finish the month 5-2, Improving by each game.
Mike W: Have to knock out these next three games first. Wins over Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland give you much more confidence heading into that stretch. There will be pride on the line with every game against the Knicks this season and in reality that is the biggest one. Even with Miami there, gaining ground in the division is more important. I'd go 5-2 to end the month, with losses at Atlanta and against Miami.
Karl: I think we win 2 of 3 between the Hawks, Heat, and Knicks. The Hawks have taken a step back lately and I think we'll step up and play one great game against the Heat or Knicks but probably not both. The East is really wide open this year and I think the Celtics still have a shot at this.
Jung: I see much to be optimistic about for this stretch of games, because none of these three are on a roll right now. The Heat and Knicks have faced inconsistently the past week, while the Hawks have just disappeared. Winning 2 out of these 3 games would be the most optimal result. But the potential to win all 3 is there. And doing that would give us some legitimate momentum.
Eric: The Celtics will be competitive. They should win at least one of those games and I would not be shocked if they won all three against the better of the teams. The Knicks are mentally broken when it comes to Boston, the Hawks are in a bit of a funk and so are the Heat. That said, these problems could be fixed by then and, given the talent on those teams, I would not be totally shocked if the Celtics were swept. Yes, they just won six straight, but I'm not ready to crown them top contender status yet. So, yea, they should win at least one against those three teams.
3. Trade deadline is coming up. Should we trade or not trade?
Terry P: If you had asked me this a few weeks ago and I would have said YES! Have some sort of deal for Demarcus Cousins and put in Avery Bradley and Jeff Green's contract and take back a player like Salmons who can help our bench. But now, heck no! No trade. We are playing better and I want to see this group finish out. I just don't trust Danny Ainge though he loves to make deals. By the way I am sorry I doubted you Avery Bradley.
Mike W: Not sure there is an economical idea out there. The market is iffy and the Celtics still have little value in the pieces they are willing to move. I doubt any team willing to part with a big puts any value in Brandon Bass, because what is he really? Same goes for Courtney Lee, who's value has plummeted since the offseason. Rondo, Pierce and KG are untouchable no matter what rumors say. You can't justify moving Bradley after what his return meant to the team and Sullinger is probably the fifth or sixth most productive rookie in the league right now.
Karl: No trade! I'll probably be the minority on this one but I think if we were to make a trade we'd have to give up Bradley and you don't give up a top 3 defender in the league. Let's roll with this team as its currently assembled and see what happens.
Jung: I may be in the minority here, but I am a proponent of keeping this team together. Unless we do some radical change, this team will continue to be a lesser title contender. While I do think Danny will probably make a small move to bolster the frontcourt, I do not see a major trade happening. What would be my idea of a good trade? Jeff Green to Houston for Carlos Delfino and Patrick Patterson would be a very nice move. It works under the salary cap, and basically gives us all we would want in such a move. Too bad Houston would never think of entertaining it.
Eric: I still say trade Rondo (as I duck out of the way of things thrown at my head). I know I said continuity is the name of the game, but that was for their recent success and I'm not sold this team can win it all as is. They are a Eastern Conference Finals team at best. I'd trade Rondo, Courtney Lee, Fab Melo and Jason Collins to Denver for Javale McGee and Ty Lawson and a couple future first round draft picks. You'd be getting a great young (24) center that KG could whip into shape who can rebound and block shots all day (2 bpg this season in only 19 min per). Yes, he is immature, but not Cousins immature. He does dumb things because he doesn't know better, not because he is unstable. Denver has so many 7-footers they wouldn't even miss McGee anyway. You'd also get a great young (25) point guard who can score (14.1 ppg and 6.8 apg with 2.6 rpg), a perfect compliment to Bradley and the Celtics would have a guard that teams would have to actually watch out for offensively, opening up the floor for everyone else. The best part? Both of those guys are locked up for at least four years (five for Lawson). And Denver would love to make that trade because they would be getting an elite point guard to feed all of their shooters and big men. I like Melo and he has potential, but McGee has just as much potential and he's less of a project. Losing Courtney Lee sounds bad, but it would open up minutes to Leandro Barbosa which some have been clamoring for and it would make him happy and not want to be traded.
4. Biggest surprise of the season, that are not Boston Celtics related?
Terry P: You should know who I will say, The Los Angeles Lakers. They stink and they were overly hyped. I know there is no D in Lakers but damn they can't slow down anyone. People were thinking they would finally get a Lebron-Kobe finals and might have to end up with a Melo-CP3 finals. That just does not seem right. Runner-up is Houston, I like this squad, can't wait to see how they look next year with Dwight Howard roaming the paint.
Mike W: Negative surprise is pretty clearly the Lakers, but I'm a positive guy. I'll go with Chicago and Indiana here, they literally have the offensive skill of the Bobcats, yet are winning at a high level.
When Boston was winning in the recent past with a stellar defense, they had an average offense. These two teams have quite literally putrid offenses that are disturbing to watch. Yet there they sit in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the Eastern Conference. Their defensive units have been so stifling, they are both winning without their best player. When Derrick Rose and Danny Granger return, watch out.
Karl: It has to be the Warriors. When was the last time they were relevant? Mark Jackson has done an amazing job over there and although I've only seen them play once it seems like an exciting brand of basketball. It's also great that it puts the Lakers as the third best team in the state.
Jung: The biggest surprise this season for me has been how good Golden State has been, especially defensively. Even without impact big man Andrew Bogut playing, the Warriors have managed to have the 11th ranked defense in the NBA. The team core improving on that end has been huge, and it signifies a major culture change in a franchise with a lot of potential.
Eric: The Bulls. The team is 22-15 without former MVP Derrick Rose. What? Name another team (outside Miami) that can lose their best player and still be seven games over .500 almost halfway through the season. You can't. It's nuts. It's just another feather in the cap of Tom Thibodeau's coaching ability. Oh, and Rose is close to coming back. Great.
5. Other then Paul,Rondo, and KG, who has impressed you this season.
Terry P: My boy Jared Sullinger. He has played wonderful, works hard, and has steadily improved. Yeah he gets fouls all time time (I love how Tommy H gets so mad at the refs for calling fouls on Sully, It cracks me up!)but in time he will learn not to get those stupid fouls. I used to want to use him as trade bait but I think he should be a Celtic lifer.
Mike W: I am thoroughly impressed with Jared Sullinger. More than just his play, which has been great of late, is his attitude and confidence on the court.
A few moments of note involve standing his ground with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler in the Knicks win and a hard foul of Blake Griffin in the Clippers loss. Those are high-strung, emotional games and moments. Sullinger composed himself like a veteran and hacked Griffin, not allowing him to throw down a vicious dunk that would have humiliated him for years.
In the Suns game, he was the entire inside presence. Going up against a very good NBA frontcourt in Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola, Sullinger bumped and bruised bodies with those mammoths all night. His veteran-like play has impressed me more than anything.
Karl: Sullinger has been a beast.com. I just wish he was two inches taller. But seriously, the guy is a rebounding machine and just plays hard every night. He's exceeded the high expectations I had of him coming in. If you show a video on boxing out just show Sullinger clips. I wish we had 3 Sully's as we continue to struggle on the boards.
Jung: The player who has most impressed me so far on this team has been Jared Sullinger. Like I keep reminding myself, I hated this pick. I thought at best he would be a homeless man’s Carlos Boozer. He was undersized, chubby, and I was not as high on his skill level as others. But he has really shown that he can survive in this league. His effort and skill are obvious, but what I love most is how cunning he can be. The little things he does, they all stem from his judgment. He has got quite the basketball mind.
Eric: Jared Sullinger. The Celtics were lucky Sully slipped down to them in the draft, but I didn't think they were this lucky. The guy can rebound, his defense gets better every day, he can score inside and he can shoot (wait a year or two when the Celtics actually look for him to shoot like they do with Brandon Bass). Once he gets past the rookie fouls he should only get better. No he won't get taller (6'9") and that hurts, but if Big Baby has taught us anything, it's that size isn't the whole story. The guy is just basketball smart. He knows where to be and when to be there. He should be the starting power forward in a couple years and a piece to build around.
Karl on the Kayak plug! Going out on the river tomorrow to answer your questions. Tweet me at @Karl_Dillinger