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Winderman: The lesson is the regular season is overrated

Jun 15, 2010, 11:38 AM EDT

Celtics_huddle.jpgWhat 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 and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  1. BostonSportsFan - Jun 15, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    isn’t this true of all sports. I don’t think that 181 games of MLB really proves anything. Could cut it in half and be at the same place. In hockey everyone has always known that playoff hockey is a completely different game then the regular season, they even have different rules for overtime playoff hockey. As a celtics fan it is pretty discouraging that the regular season meant nothing, and wasn’t always played with 100% effort. I don’t see me paying for a regular season celtics game again (and I paid for 24 games this season). That will be the only thing to change this trend, fans stop paying for tickets to games where the players don’t try. The whole culture is disgraceful.

  2. Evan - Jun 15, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    This is one of the many reasons for my Love/Hate relationship with the NBA. Teams are only as good as their best 1-3 players. During the regular season, coaches routinely sit their best players to keep them fresh and to avoid injury. Once the postseason comes around (which is pretty difficult to miss), you see teams that were so-so playing like champions. I never doubted the Celtics. Injuries aside, they have 3 (probably 4) Hall of Famers in their starting 5. There’s never been a team like that in NBA history that HASN’T at least one a ring or two.

  3. Matt - Jun 15, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Baseball and basketball are such different sports that you can’t lump their regular seasons in the same type of category. Baseball is a roster of 25 guys that all contribute and often the lesser skilled team can win any given game, which is why a lengthy season is needed to distinguish the 8 best teams. Basketball is a team sport with what 14 guys? Of which only about 8 contribute in a league where half the teams make the playoffs. That is the reason why the NBA season doesn’t mean much. How much harder do you think they would play if only 8 teams made the playoffs?

  4. Arp - Jun 15, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Isn’t this the end result of a season which ends in playoffs which seem like the “best of 247” games? The playoffs seem longer than the season. Jeez!

  5. hater - Jun 15, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    Jordan played in ’95.

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