By Sarah Barton
Injuries have plagued the Celtics of late. Pierce's thumb may not be 100% (although that hasn't kept him from playing 48 minutes), Tony Allen's thumb will keep him out for the rest of the season, Scal still can't get his head on straight and will miss at least a month, and KG's knee is being treated with utmost caution.
Add the acquisition of Mikki and Marbury, and this is not the Celtic team that we are used to. It's also not the Celtic team that the Celtics are used to. But that's not entirely a bad thing.
Last season, Boston thrived on consistency. Injuries were few and far between, the roster went essentially unchanged throughout the season, and players found and settled nicely into their roles on the team. As a spectator, you pretty much always knew what to expect. This year, not so much. Especially over the past few weeks.
Lately, Boston hasn't really been consistent. Exhibit A: Losing to the Clippers. After winning 12 straight through January and early February, the Celtics are 7-5 in their last 12 games. The only consistency there is that they're still winning more than they're losing. But after a dozen straight wins, 7-5 is nothing to write home about.
That being said, it's unfair to expect consistency from a team that is gaining and losing members like a high school garage band. Marbury and Moore now have some practices under their belt, but they are still trying to find a niche. Tony Allen is done, Scal is all but done, and KG is far from done but potentially far from suiting up. Glen Davis, whom many didn't expect to make a splash in the NBA, is starting. The Celtics are in the midst of an adjustment period.
Now is the time for the C's to give bench guys some minutes. Boston's current roster will likely be its playoff roster, so giving Davis, Marbury, Moore, and Leon Powe substantial time now will hopefully bolster the Celtics' playoff stock. Boston isn't going to finish 66-16 like last year, but injuries weren't a factor last year. The Celtics' inability to win a playoff game on the road, however, was a factor. Ideally, getting more guys in the rotation now will alleviate multiple painstakingly long and dramatic playoff series and keep Celtic legs, minds, and bodies fresher come playoffs. As a fan, I would gladly sacrifice a few regular season wins for a less stressful playoff run. I'm sure the players would second that notion.
The potential downside to that sacrifice is that Boston could end up with a lower seed in the East and incur a significantly tougher playoff schedule. In a perfect world, the Celtics would win the East and Cleveland and Orlando would finish in the second and third seed. That way, either the Cavs or the Magic would eliminate the other in the conference semi-finals, thus allowing Boston to escape the East without having to defeat both the Cavs and the Magic. Remember, I'm talking about a perfect world here. In the real world, the C's barely squeaked by the Hawks in the first round last year.
If you had told me a few months ago that the Celtics would have Powe, House, Marbury, Moore, and Bill Walker on the floor at the same time (which happened during the second quarter last night vs. New Jersey), I may have been a bit skeptical. Actually, I would have been dumbfounded. But if traditional bench players are getting decent minutes now, they should also be able to log some later in the season and into the playoffs. Working the kinks (or, for Marbury (as my brother so aptly stated), the Knicks) out of the system is the immediate concern. Then get KG back and continue building team chemistry. Then worry about playoffs.
Boston has to start somewhere in terms of adjusting to these new roster additions and subtractions. I'd much rather these adjustments begin sooner (early March) than later (mid-April). That way, the Celtics can take care of their inconsistencies now and develop into consistent C's for the playoffs.