Monday, February 8, 2010 Updated: February 10, 12:09 AM ET
Can the Celtics be fixed?
By Chris Forsberg ESPNBoston.com
Throughout their recent struggles, the Boston Celtics have leaned on the fact that they still have the entire second half of the season to fix what ails them.
It may not be that simple.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge must decide if a shakeup is needed for the C's.
While it's true that 33 games remain on Boston's regular-season schedule, the window for positioning this team for postseason success may be decidedly narrower as the trade deadline approaches.
On the heels of yet another meltdown against a top Eastern Conference foe, the Celtics, now more than ever, seem desperate for a shakeup. If that's to come, they don't have the luxury of time before they have to make some important decisions.
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 18. Because of the All-Star break, the Celtics play just two more games before that point -- Wednesday night in New Orleans and Feb. 16 in Sacramento.
In what seems like a daily exercise, Celtics coach Doc Rivers reaffirmed his love for his roster after Sunday's disheartening loss to the Magic, which featured yet another second-half collapse and blown double-digit lead. If you believe Rivers, the Celtics have enough talent in their locker room right now to win a championship. Despite their struggles against elite competition, it's still hard to argue given how good they looked at the start of the season.
But recently, the Celtics have looked bad. Very bad. No lead is safe; home court is irrelevant; and it's hard to remember the last time Boston put together 48 minutes of consistent basketball.
Worse yet, neither players nor coaches seem to have an answer for how to fix the problems. The Celtics acknowledge the issues and suggest they will get better, but they offer no definitive plan of attack for fixing those ailments.
So how do they proceed? It's a question that might define not just the next three months, but seasons to come. Do the Celtics trade Ray Allen and his $19.7 million expiring contract? Would a minor move be enough to stir the pot? Should the Celtics simply stand firm and hope a healthy roster is all they need to turn it around?
These decisions would be easier if the Celtics and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had the sort of time they think they enjoy. But they don't. They've got 10 days (although the team will be scattered for much-needed rest over the All-Star break) and a mere two games.
Boston got a glimpse of what a completely healthy roster looks like Sunday. But the return of Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels couldn't stop the Magic from trampling Boston in the third quarter. And there's not much time remaining to gauge just how much of a difference a healthy roster will make.
Does Ainge agree with his coach? If he stands pat -- maybe simply adding depth through a minor move or free-agent signing -- then it would appear he, too, believes Boston's problems are correctable.
If nothing else, Rivers likes the fact that, with a healthy roster, there's no longer a built-in safety net for his players.
"I like the fact that there's no excuse," Rivers said. "We're intact now, so I don't want to hear the excuses. I didn't want to hear them when we were injured, and I certainly don't want to hear them now."
Rivers continues to preach that there's no panic in the Boston locker room. He thinks the problems are correctable through hard work alone. That's why he scoffed Sunday at a player who suggested the Celtics were still better than Orlando, even after dropping their third game to the Magic this season.
"It's something we can fix," Rivers said. "I'm not panicked or anything like that. I'm just telling you the truth. We have it in our locker room, but I don't want to hear we're better than anybody. We have the chance to be, but right now, we're not. We've got work to do, so that's what we're going to do."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.