The 2021-22 NBA regular season is just about halfway done and the Boston Celtics aren’t where they want to be.
For starters, the Celtics rarely have had their entire team active at the same time. Boston notoriously has struggled with COVID-19 outbreaks this season, along with a plethora of injuries. The Celtics have had 14 different players enter the league’s health and safety protocols this season at various times — including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Robert Williams — but the team may finally be getting over the hump. Payton Pritchard is the only Celtic currently in the league’s protocols as Boston prepares for a rematch against the New York Knicks.
Even when COVID-19 wasn’t an issue, the Celtics have struggled mightily with injuries with Brown being the biggest example. The All-Star guard has missed 14 games this season mostly due to a hamstring injury. Marcus Smart and Williams each also have missed periods of time but they’re both back and healthy.
Injuries and COVID-19 certainly haven’t been the Celtics’ only issues — they’ve struggled to hold onto leads, with Thursday’s loss against the Knicks the most glaring example — but they have looked like the team that they were expected to be at points, just not consistently.
Boston’s New Year’s Eve win against Phoenix Suns is its biggest example of success this season. Phoenix sports a league-best 30-8 record, but the Celtics dominated and won 123-108. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance at times and have beat some of the league’s best, even boasting two wins over the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks.
If they were to remain healthy, they should be in the playoff race late in the season. There are holes on the team’s roster, but with Tatum, Brown, Smart, Horford and Williams all healthy now at the same time, now’s their chance to rebound. The squad’s opening day starting lineup only has played nine games together, but that should change now barring any injuries. Tweaks must be made — namely late in games — but with the roster in tact, now’s the time.
The Celtics may not win a championship this season, but with the starting lineup fully healthy now they should rise in the Eastern Conference standings.