April 1, 2007
Those who follow the Celtics can revel in the fact they are smarter than mathematics. Greenhearts, no April fools they, have known for quite a while that the C's are not going to make it into this year's playoffs, but the numbers didn't figure it out until Friday night. Yes, the 88-82 loss to the 76ers officially eliminated the Bostonians from the postseason.
The last time anyone around the club mentioned playoffs (this year's anyway) was back in early January when there was still hope Paul Pierce might make a quick return from his left foot woes and join a team with Wally Szczerbiak, Al Jefferson and a streaking Tony Allen.
For the last two months, however, there's been more talk about proper tanking etiquette - or how best to play this season so it makes the club better for next season.
For his part, Danny Ainge is throwing a stiff-arm at public commentary on the issue.
``I don't want to comment on that stuff,'' said the director of basketball operations. ``I mean, it is what it is. Doc (Rivers) and the players are trying to win every night, and that's going to continue. Right now he's got a lot of young guys out there, and you can see we play well and there are a lot of good signs. But young players are going to make way too many mistakes. That's something we have to deal with every night, but we're hoping this experience these guys are getting will make us a better team faster in the long run.
``The frustration mounts when you have so many mistakes made that cost you games, but there's a bigger picture we're looking at along with trying to win each night.'' But, Ainge stressed, that's a picture for management to view. The players need tunnel vision.
``I would never ask a player to not play his best and not try to win every moment they're on the court,'' he said. ``You want to see guys improve and play to win. And even if you lose every game there's no guarantees. That's for sure. Even if you finish with the worst record in the league you only have a 25 percent chance of getting the best pick.''