The Celtics hit the All-Star break playing some of their best basketball of the season, an unexpected feel-good vibe for a team that has fallen well short of their own expectations or those among their fanbase.
But don’t be fooled.
While Boston’s fortunes have certainly improved with four straight wins, the tone is one of cautious optimism among the players, coaches, and the man who brought this team together, Danny Ainge.
Ainge can’t ignore the team’s recent run of success, which has them going into the break with a 19-17 record and the longest current winning streak in the East. That's good enough to have them occupy the fourth-place spot in the standings.
But in that same breath, Ainge has been around the game long enough to know he can’t completely dismiss the struggles that haven’t cost them games of late but are nonetheless still present.
So how does Ainge approach this all-important stretch leading up to the March 25 trade deadline?
Despite the team’s recent run of success, change of some sort is still in order.
But the challenge for Ainge is discerning whether that change can come about internally, or externally via trade.
“The players and coaches have to prepare themselves to go out and win the next game and the game after that,” Ainge told BostonSportsJournal.com. “It’s my job to allow that to happen and at the same time, have a bigger picture perspective as well. So, I have to live in the moment and in the future. And manage the salary cap, and the here and now, and future roster opportunities.”
Ainge doesn’t speak specifically about potential trade targets, but Boston is reportedly interested in a potential deal that would net them Orlando center Nikola Vucevic or Detroit forward Jeremy Grant.