Jun 15, 2010, 11:38 AM EDT
What we have here is a referendum on the regular season, affirmation, if you will, of whether the first 82 games are, as many insist, indeed overrated.
At 50-32, the Celtics finished tied for the ninth-best record in the NBA. Only four of the 16 playoff teams finished behind Boston.
As a matter of perspective, it would be the worst regular-season record of an NBA champion since the Rockets took advantage of Michael Jordan’s absence to win the 1995 title off a 47-35 regular-season run.
Yet in recent years, the Heat won the 2006 title at 52-30 and the Pistons took the 2004 championship at 54-28.
But this is about more than Doc Rivers purposely putting aside regular season goals in favor of a healthy postseason roster.
It also is about two of the postseason’s biggest stories off the court.
It is about Mike Woodson being fired by the Hawks after winning 100 games the past two seasons, simply because his team proved unable to compete on the elevated stage of the conference semifinals.
And it is about Mike Brown being banished in Cleveland after winning 127 games the past two seasons because he could not push the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals.
Could the Hawks possibly have gotten more out of a roster lacking a true center or ambulatory point guard the past two seasons?
Could Mike Brown have produced anything more during the late-October-to-mid-April grind?
Try telling either one of those two that the regular season matters.
For that matter, try telling Orlando, with its 59 regular-season victories, that the season’s first six months meant anything in terms of getting Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis ready for ultimate stages of the season.
About the only exception to this minimization of the regular season comes from the Nets, who have gone against the grain, with the hiring of Avery Johnson.
In many ways, Johnson, during his coaching tenure in Dallas, was exactly what Woodson and Brown had been these past two seasons in Atlanta and Cleveland, a coach who thrived during the regular season only to see his team melt under the glare of the league’s brightest lights.
Of course, coming off a 12-70 disaster, the 2010-11 regular season will matter plenty to the Nets.
But, otherwise, the signals coming from the NBA are that the initial 82-game marathon is a race that produces no true winners.
Rather it stands as an extended prologue to the only games that seem to matter.
The Celtics are poised to offer such affirmation.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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