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Celtics fans: Get ready for the stretch run. Here's everything you need to know

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about the Boston Celtics men’s professional basketball club. I’m dearly sorry to keep you waiting for so long. It won’t happen again, I promise. My randomly ordered thoughts on what’s transpired around the Celtics lately are as follows:

To trade, or not to trade? Not to trade!

Now that all of the All-Star weekend festivities are over (shoutout to Jayson and Kemba), it’s time for us NBA fans to shift our focus to the future. There is a 24-game run to the playoffs coming up, and after trade rumors were abuzz for weeks prior to the deadline, Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front office decided their best course of action was to stay put, citing “health” as their no. 1 priority for the rest of the regular season.

It’s very true that Boston getting healthy could act as a de facto trade; Robert Williams has been out with a hip bone edema (no clue what that means but it sounds bad) since Dec. 6, Kemba (knee), Jaylen (ankle), and Gordon (foot) have each dealt with nagging injuries, and rookie lottery pick Romeo Langford is coming into his own after spending the first half of the season rehabbing a plethora of different injuries.

Adolescents from suburban Massachusetts raised their Twitter fists and clamored for an Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, Clint Capela, etc., but to no avail. As Ainge has referred to more than once, the price has to be right for a deal featuring one of those players, and it never got close to that.

Were the Celtics ever going to give away three first-round picks for a rental in Davis Bertans? Were they going to trade Romeo, Carsen, Semi, Poirier, and some picks for Capela? Absolutely not. Ainge is a top-five GM in the NBA and he understands value. None of these trades make Boston an immediate Finals favorite, therefore they are not worth mortgaging the team’s future for. It would’ve been cool to see Davis Bertans on the Celtics, I’ll be the first to admit it; but it would’ve been for four months, then the draft cupboard is bare come June, and those deals that Ainge previously turned down, are no longer being offered at all.

Say it with me; Jayson Tatum is a SUPERSTAR

Fine, I’ll say it; it’s been really fun to see Jayson Tatum evolve from a young star to a bona fide superstar right in front of our eyes. His 39-point takeover in Boston’s 2OT win against the Clippers the night before the All-Star break solidified him as a marquee player in this league. I’ve said this before, and also seen many others say it, but the Celtics are at their best when Tatum is the best player on the team. Kemba is great; he’s a leader and understands what Brad Stevens is trying to do on the floor. But those nights where Tatum is calling for the ball in the fourth quarter, hunting a matchup with the opposing team’s best defender, and then locking up their best scorer on the other end? Those are the games where Boston looks dangerous.

At the beginning of the season, an All-Star selection was the goal for Tatum. At this point, we might be on to all-NBA. Can we really name six forwards that are better than Tatum this season? LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler…. I think that’s it. He could be in some trouble if Anthony Davis (a center) and Paul George (a wing) are both listed as forwards, which is likely, and if the media undergoes their usual bogus voting practices, which is inevitable. Nonetheless, any Tatum supporter should be advertising for him to be an all-NBA third team forward, at the least. He’s easily an all-Defense player too, but he can’t win every award. Actually, he can. He’s one of the best defenders in the entire league this year. And the best guard defender in the league is Marcus Smart, who is on the floor with him more often than not.

Romeo Langford is awesome

Romeo Langford is one of the foremost characters in the NBA. Between stories about his lack of a driver’s license and his being pranked by Marcus Smart with a $4500 Chipotle order, it’s hard not to like this guy. He’s really funny; he also happens to be really good at basketball. Since he’s started seeing the floor on a regular basis, he’s shown himself to be a potential rotation player in the postseason. Langford plays well within the team’s defensive system, being a highly-switchable player with length that seems to be in the right spots more often than not. He won’t be relied upon to score, but his ability to generate free-throws and open up driving lanes shouldn’t go unnoticed. Maybe Ainge has outsmarted us all yet again, and Boston’s true trade deadline acquisition is Langford.

The 2-seed is VERY important

I probably don’t even need to say this, because every sports fan (hopefully) knows that the team being as close to the top of the standings as possible is the goal. But I’ll say it anyway; the Celtics really need to lock down the 2-seed for the playoffs. Milwaukee is too good to surmount at this point, and I’m fine with giving up on #1 in the East and letting them ride it out.

As of 2/20, the fourth-place Heat are three games behind the Celtics, who are 1.5 games back of the second-place Raptors that just won 15 games in a row before the All-Star break. Whichever team wins Boston and Toronto’s head-to-head matchup on Mar. 20 is going to have the in-route to the second seed, barring a collapse from either squad. The Celtics rank third in the NBA in NET rating, and the Raptors are fourth. They are two very evenly matched teams, but on paper, Boston just has more talent, especially if injuries are a factor. Boston has been banged up, but Toronto has had the worst injury luck in the NBA. Hopefully, the imminent return of Robert Williams III gives the Celtics the small boost they need to overtake the Raptors in second place.

The difference between being the second and third seed is playing Brooklyn/Orlando or Philadelphia/Indiana in the first round. It might just be me, but I’d rather play the under-.500 team(s) than the one(s) with multiple All-Stars. The road to the Finals becomes infinitely more difficult if the Celtics have to play Indiana/Philadelphia, Toronto on the road, and then Milwaukee on the road rather than Brooklyn/Orlando, Toronto at home, and Milwaukee on the road.

Are Jayson and Kemba recruiting Donovan Mitchell?

Boy, wouldn’t this be something. The entire weekend just seemed like one big recruiting pitch from Jayson and/or Kemba to Mitchell. Tatum has Deuce call him “Uncle Don,” and the three of them held hands during introductions (platonically).

Mitchell also went to high school at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. The Jazz will have to tender him a qualifying offer following the 2020-2021 season, and he’ll hit restricted free agency the next summer.

Could the Celtics steal yet another young star away from desolate Salt Lake City? Only time (a lot of time) will tell.

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