So what do you do with these Boston Celtics, who have apparently made a habit of cruising through the first half of the NBA schedule?
Even after winning their past two games, the Celtics are just 16-17 on the season, good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They are closer to the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors in the standings than the Miami Heat, and those two also-rans have recently been playing a lot better than Boston.
It was around this time last season that many, including me, decided it was time for general manager Danny Ainge to pull the plug on the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen era. The 2011-12 Celtics also started the season 16-17 and it appeared that they had about zero chance of going deep in the playoffs.
Ainge didn't pull that plug, however, and the Celtics ended up finishing the regular season strong, taking two playoff series and coming up one game short of their third conference title in five seasons. After a rocky offseason, Ainge re-signed Garnett from the unrestricted free-agent market and then spread the rest of his carefully cleared cap space around to refurbish KG's supporting cast.
But slow starts are not the M.O. of the modern Celtics era, or at least they weren't until last season. During Garnett's first four seasons in Boston, the Celtics won 29, 28, 25 and 26 games respectively in their first 33 outings. All of those teams except the first eventually did go into cruise mode as Doc Rivers prepped his aging roster for the postseason, but before doing so they had established their credentials as a bona fide contender. That's certainly not the case this season, and that's what makes interpreting the Celtics' start a complicated task.