BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The 2014 trade deadline passed Thursday without even a whimper from the Boston Celtics. This upset some fans because trades are fun and standing pat is not.
Sure, we get it. There's a sector of the fan base that can't see beyond the now, and watching their decorated franchise labor through a 19-36 season is painful. The trade deadline represented a rare chance to shake things up on the fly -- a fictional chance to acquire the next savior. And with 72 hours of rampant Rajon Rondo rumors packing the punch of 72 five-hour energy drinks, some Celtics fans endured a restless night in advance of the deadline, waking up Thursday like kids on Christmas morning and expecting a huge pile of presents.
In their eyes, they got coal.
Expectations were out of whack with reality. Even as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens tempered expectations leading up to the deadline, there were fans who simply wanted anything to stir the pot a bit.
But what's easy to forget is that Boston did its shopping early, facilitating two early-January trades that accomplished much of what the team would have normally been looking to do in mid-February.
Yes, Boston was open to more deals, ones that could have cleared future cap space or brought back more draft picks, but there was no pressing need to make a swap. One of the primary rules of general managing is that you don't make a trade just to make a trade. That rarely helps your cause.
So, ultimately, the day lapsed without activity for Boston. The Celtics put high price tags on their own talent, didn't find any bargains across the rest of the league, and resigned themselves to being wallflowers at the annual trade discotheque (even though Ainge & Co. did pack their dance shoes).
The Celtics went into deadline week knowing that many of the same possible moves could be revisited in one form or another this summer when there will be no in-season obstacles to navigate and Boston will have a better grasp on exactly how it plans to build, having gone through the draft before free agency and the next trading period arrive again.
There were those who believed that moving a veteran like Brandon Bass could have offered a number of positives: more playing time for younger players, future cap relief, the potential for draft assets if a contender desired his services, and maybe even helping the team lose more games to better its draft pick.
What's clear is that the rest of the league wasn't willing to pay that price, and thus the Celtics were not able to reap any of the other benefits.
For the next 27 games, Stevens will simply have to do what he's done for the first 55: Endure a flawed roster that's logjammed at the power forward position. There are worse situations to deal with. It's on Stevens to figure out a minutes plan that nurtures the development of rookie Kelly Olynyk, even if Bass maintains his starting role.
Everything during a rebuild is a careful balance between now and the future. On Thursday, the Celtics erred on the side of the future. But Stevens noted how his focus, at least with the players on his roster, must always remain on the now.
"I never stop coaching for the now, but I never lose sight of coaching for the future," Stevens said. "The reason I say that is you have to coach for the now because you have to do your very best to put your team in position to play their best on that given night. And all of the things that culturally happen as a result of that."
Later he added, "[The future] never trumps the now part [on the court]. It never trumps the now part, because I think people can see right through that. And the thing I hope each one of these guys says is, 'We're focused on the next day and that's about it.' That's what we work on every day. That's what we did [Thursday]. We met real briefly, talked to them, reviewed [Wednesday] night's game real quickly, talked about [Friday] for a second, and let them go on their way today and get some fresh legs. I think that's what you have to focus on."
Focusing on the now is tough for some Boston fans because the team is losing, but this team is moving in a more positive direction for the future.
Just keep in mind that rebuilding projects often lack flair. Ainge often cites how Red Auerbach used to note how the best deals are often the ones you don't make. The Celtics understand they have an opportunity to accelerate through this transition phase, but the team has to make all the right steps along the way, even if they are not always the most exciting ones.
Unlike past seasons when Boston went hunting for available talent to aid a playoff run, Thursday was another acknowledgment that the Celtics are on the other end of the spectrum for the moment.
That's no fun, but the future is brighter because of it.