BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics are on a bit of a roll right now. They've won 10 of their last 14 games and have the best defensive rating in the NBA since Christmas.
Boston still sits in the play-in standings, but the C's are within striking distance of making the real playoffs. They are just 2.5 games behind Brooklyn, the sixth-seed in the East, and shockingly, only five games out of first place in the conference.
While the Celtics are in a much better place than they were two months ago, this run has put Brad Stevens in a rather unenvious position. Boston's president of basketball ops. was expected to sell off some of the team's spare parts at next week's trade deadline, with rumors swirling about reserves Dennis Schroder and Jason Richardson. But with Boston starting to make some actual noise and playing some really good basketball, sending away important contributors for tax relief would be a bad look.
Stevens was asked about his approach to the trade deadline during his Thursday morning appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich, but remained coy on his plans. But it sounds like his focus remains on the future rather than the present, in the hopes of bringing another title to Boston in the next few years.
"Every decision we make has to be focused on does that decision give us the best chance at the next banner? That, ultimately, is the call," said Stevens. "It's not as focused on how your team is necessarily playing in the moment; it's focused on what is the best thing to be able to be in the mix and then hang the next banner."
Stevens said it has been tough to assess the Celtics over the last 13 months. He said that the team has been inconsistent in terms of results, but COVID-19 absences throughout that time frame made everything a lot more difficult.
But given the team's recent stretch, it's clear that this Celtics group can be a good team. Stevens is most encouraged by the strong defense, and adds that Boston's shooting woes from early in the season are improving.
He would not, however, say if he considers this current team as a title contender. In year's past, Danny Ainge would be brutally honest on that front, but Stevens didn't want to touch it on Thursday.
"I don't want to be the person that either over exaggerates us or limits us. I think we can go into every game, and we should -- especially when we're full -- if we do our jobs really well, play hard and share the ball, we have a really good chance at being successful," he said. "I do think that, let's just say if we were fortunate enough to ride a good wave and get into the playoffs, against anybody we would be a tough team to beat when we're playing the right way.
"We need to improve offensively to get into the mix," he added. "Some of that can be done internally. You're always looking to improve, but just generally, in the big picture, it's pretty rare that you don't have a Top 5 offense and a Top 5 defense and have a chance. Right now, our defense is at that level but our offense needs to improve."
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