Bob Ryan, who knows more about basketball than I know about everything else in the world combined (yes, even including snack-machine cuisine and mid-’80s International League prospects), tweeted this after the Celtics’ hideous 111-102 loss to the hideous Sixers on April 4.
Remember, Celtics fans, this is what you wanted.
— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) April 5, 2014
Bob’s point — that you should never want the basketball team you root for to look as disinterested and incompetent as the Celtics did that night — has rattled around in my head off and on ever since. And I still keep coming to the same conclusion:
It’s necessary. This is how it has to be — lose, lose, lose, and lose again. — for the winning days to come around again.
Sure, it’s no fun watching lousy basketball. It’s infinitely more frustrating being a part of it. Brad Stevens has taken the losses — nine in a row now, and 14 in the last 15 games — hard.
Actually, I should be more specific: Stevens taken the sloppy and often uninspired basketball that has led to the losses hard.
The brilliant young coach looks at least 29 years old these days. Stevens wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel some twinges of melancholy as the NCAA Tournament played on without him.
Every NBA season is a grind. Seasons like this one? They must feel infinite.
For a time, the Celtics, almost to a man, played harder than a team in their situation would be expected to do. Fans like to believe that they’ll give the ol’ 110-percent no matter what, because just look at what they’re getting paid. I’d play for free!
But it’s not as simple as that. There’s the nuances of human nature involved. It’s tough to stay completely invested when the injuries, departures, and losses mount. I’m not saying that’s right. But that’s how the world works, son.
Regarding Bob’s tweet, though: This isn’t what I wanted. I mean, not totally. I thought they’d lose more, and while wanted is a strong word, I have felt all along that sacrificing this season for the future is the right play by the Celtics. It would be a cruel twist if their surprising success early this season ended up mattering not at all this year while negatively affecting the future.
Anyway, it’s almost over, and if you can bear to look, you’ll notice it is ending with some suspense.
Right now, the Celtics are tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the league at 23-55. The Celtics have four games remaining — tonight at home against the Bobcats (touted on Celtics.com as a showdown of Rajon Rondo vs. Kemba Walker), on the road against the Sixers and Cavs, then back to bring down the curtain against the Wizards.
A couple of those games would seem winnable — especially against the D-League-level Sixers, obviously, despite the basketball atrocity of the previous meeting. But all common sense suggests they need to lose them. All four of ’em, actually.
Why? Because the Magic are going to be hard-pressed to win one more game the rest of the way. They conclude the season with this final four: home against the Wizards, at Brooklyn and Chicago, then back home to face the Pacers.
Those four opponents are all playoff-bound, averaging 46 wins. The Pacers’ recent struggles might indicate that the Magic can steal the season finale. But they’ll do everything in their power to assure that doesn’t happen. I’m putting the Pacers’ Chris Copeland down for 35 points.
It is important to finish with the third-worst record rather than the fourth, and not just because there are three highly appealing prospects in Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker (should he ditch Duke and declare for the draft).
While the probability of getting the No. 1 overall pick is split here, the reality is that there is a 15.6 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick from the third spot (and 46.9 percent odds of getting a top-three pick). But from the fourth spot, the probability drops to 11.9 and 37.8 percent.
It’s a relevant difference, which brings me around to what Celtics fans really should ask for:
Hey, how about a lucky bounce from the ping-pong balls for once?
That’s more overdue than a Celtics win, and so much more important to the franchise’s future.