Celtics Nation Has Many Reasons to Be Optimistic

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Celtics Nation Has Many Reasons to Be Optimistic You have to love the Boston fan. He is undoubtedly devoted. He’ll never cheat on his team.

But my goodness, is he a naysayer.

Check out some of the comments gracing NESN.com in recent days. You’d think the Celtics were all out with swine flu (or something much worse).

“C’s had no chance against this Denver Nuggets team.”

“You should have said the C’s have no chance this season, never mind the game. Old men can’t keep up. Haha. LOSERS!” (In retrospect, this one might not have been from a Celtics fan. When did Kobe Bryant start reading NESN.com?)

Nate [Robinson] is an alright addition, but they should have done something else, too.”

“They should have gotten rid of Ray [Allen] and Baby, whoops, I mean Glen Davis, and Ray for Kevin Martin.”

“They have NO CHANCE of contending for a title.”

“I want to stick forks in my eyes watching this team.”

The world is ending. Armageddon now. Forks in your eyes? Really? For a team with the third-best record (35-19) in a stacked Eastern Conference and a shoo-in for the playoffs, that might be an overreaction.

In fact, take a close look at the Celtics’ upcoming schedule, and there’s much room for optimism.

Nine of their next 13 games (taking us right up to St. Patrick’s Day — coincidence?) are at home, and 10 of them are against teams at or below .500. Mixed in are two great test-me games against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, owners of the NBA’s best record.

The schedule, in other words, offers the best of both worlds: a chance to see where the Celts stand and enough patty-cake tilts in between to allow them to go in well-rested against Cleveland. It's possible that they could even be right on the heels of Orlando for the No. 2 spot in the East, which would theoretically keep Boston away from its kryptonite — the Hawks — for the first two rounds of the postseason.

The reasons for optimism don’t end there.

1. Kevin Garnett’s balky knee seems to get less balky with each game. In Boston’s four-game West Coast trip, the defensive captain averaged 13.3 points a game, 7.2 boards, two blocks and shot 53.3 percent from the field. It’s no coincidence the C’s went 3-1 over that stretch.

2. Paul Pierce has been terrible of late: 10 points per game on 32.5 percent shooting over his last four. This wouldn’t normally be cause for celebration, but a report out Monday suggests we shouldn't be so quick to judge: The Truth has been dealing with an injured thumb, bad knee and sprained foot.

This is finally forcing Doc Rivers’ hand: He’ll have to sit the captain for a couple of games — a blessing, given how badly Pierce needs it and given Boston’s easy schedule over its next 13.

“The thumb, the knee and the foot, it may have caught up to him right now,” Rivers said. “We may have to look at getting him some rest. On the surface, that’s the way it looks like it’s going.”

Get Pierce his rest now, and the C’s will be poised for a run later on.

3. Allen has been off the hook. Chalk it up to a sense of relief or an “I told you so” mentality after the trade deadline passed, but the 34-year-old is suddenly the difference-maker the C’s have so desperately needed.

His numbers over the last three: 23.3 points on 65 percent shooting, including a much-improved 50 percent mark from 3-point land.

4. Robinson. Not gonna lie: I don’t like this trade.

But the 5-foot-9 firecracker offers something the Celtics could certainly use: a change of pace. He will spread the defense with his quickness, provide a legitimate second option at point guard behind Rajon Rondo and could breathe new life into a second unit that has seemed discombobulated for much of the season.

And perhaps playing for a championship-caliber team will keep Robinson’s reputed selfishness under wraps. If not, we can be sure KG will.

All things considered, the Celtics are in good standing. They run little risk of dropping out of the top four in the conference, they’re setting up — with the right rest from Doc — to be healthy by season’s end and they have the backup point guard they’ve been seeking for two years. 

“People can call us old, call us whatever,” Rivers said after Boston trounced Portland 96-76 on Friday night. “We’re just going to keep trying to get better.”

Call that foolish optimism or blind love, but it seems only fair to account for all the naysaying going on around here.

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