BOSTON – This is it, the final game before the All-Star break.
For some, it’s all that stands in the way of a week off from a work, a time to recharge before what many teams, the Celtics included, hope will be a strong run towards the playoffs.
But as much as the Celtics will benefit from having a few days off, they’re playing some of their best basketball right now, riding the kind of wave of success no one wants to stop.
They’ll try and keep it going for at least one more game tonight as they close out the pre All-Star break portion of their schedule at Chicago.
Boston (37-19) has the second-best record in the East, has won four in a row and 11 of their past 12 to close to just 2.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A big part of the Celtics' success has been the ability for seemingly anyone on the roster to step in and contribute, regardless of how big the shoes are that they are called upon to fill.
There’s no better example of this than James Young.
He has been buried on the Celtics bench most of this season.
But with a hip injury to Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green at times being under the weather, or in Boston’s 116-108 win over Philadelphia, having a heel injury, Young has come on the past two games to do more than just be a warm body on the floor.
He’s made plays at both ends of the floor, showing a level of confidence and ability to contribute in a meaningful way, that we have not seen before from the third-year wing.
“It’s there; you can definitely say the chemistry is there,” said teammate Jae Crowder. “We play for one another. There’s no bad tension in the locker room. Once you have a team like that, good things happen. You can tell. We’ve been playing in a good groove of late.”
The same can’t be said for the Bulls (27-29), losers in four of their past six and sitting at seventh in the East.
Chicago’s struggles on the floor have led to increased speculation about the uncertain future of several players, including All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Butler was recently asked if the Bulls not telling him he’s off the trade market bothers him.
“Nothing surprises me nowadays,” he told reporters. “I’m not surprised by anything...anything’s possible. It’s a business at the end of the day.”
He is a player that several teams have interest in, including the Celtics, who have had conversations recently about a potential deal for Butler.
But league sources contacted by CSNNE.com have indicated that the Bulls, while open to the idea of moving Butler, are looking for a “massive haul” if they were to in fact deal the face of the franchise.
The Bulls would have to be in the mindset of rebuilding, a job that could be a lot easier for their fans to stomach if you’re talking about losing Butler but adding quality players from a playoff-bound team such as Boston. Plus, the Celtics’ pick that they'll have via the Brooklyn Nets is likely to be a top-three selection.
So far, Boston has been reluctant to include that pick with any potential trades due to its value in a draft loaded at the top with elite players, such as point guards such as Markell Fultz of Washington and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.
But the way Boston has been playing, the last thing on the player’s minds right now is a possible trade to break up what has been a well-oiled machine of late.
“I just play basketball,” Crowder said. “Let the rest of those guys [Celtics front office] take care of the other stuff. We just try to win games, take it one game at a time, and do our job.”