With the addition of Jimmy Butler this week, the Eastern Conference may have reached its final form as a conference fit to compete with the long-dominant West. If you had told the casual fan before preseason that the Celtics would sit at #4 in the East with an 8-6 record at this point in the season, and that Jimmy Butler would move to the Sixers in a blockbuster shift of power, they probably wouldn’t have believed you.
But the Celtics have been struggling, and #4 is where they sit. The Sixers aren’t far behind–with the Pistons right behind them–so if the Celtics don’t figure something out soon they could find themselves even lower on the list.
Kyrie Irving has recently commented about how the team would benefit from a 14-year veteran in the locker room, and there’s been talk of trying out Gordon Hayward in a bench role as the team tries to get itself off the ropes. The only Celtic that seems unsurprised by the new toughness of the East is Terry Rozier.
He told The Athletic:
“To be honest, I kind of knew the East was going to be like this. With all the commotion of LeBron leaving, people were trying to make it seem like it was ours hands-down. But I knew it was going to be even tougher because it made everybody feel comfortable, it made everybody feel jacked up about their season. So I knew it was going to be tough. I mean, it’s still kind of early, but it’s tough. There’s a lot of teams that want to be the top in the East. And I kind of figured it was going to be this way.”
The Celtics face the Raptors tonight, who currently sit at #1 in the East. The addition of Kawhi Leonard–who is having a potential MVP season–has made The North nigh unstoppable. They’ve only got three losses at this point, which is the least of any team in the league including the supposedly unbeatable Warriors. They’re no joke, and they’ve taken the Celtics by surprise.
“We’re supposed to be the best sh*t walking since sliced bread — or however you say that line,” Rozier said prior to the team’s Bulls blowout on Wednesday. “But it ain’t looking like it. And that’s just getting exposed every game. We’re getting ran at every game.”
The Celtics are hoping to bounce back from that dismal performance, but it’ll be hard to do so against what is arguably the best team in the league right now. The two teams will face off tonight at 7:00 pm EST.
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