You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Celtics Live

38

34

2nd Quarter 8:59

Red Sox Live

5

3

▲  6th Inning 0 outs

editorial

With Celtics in first place, .400 is above average

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

This year’s Celtics have been straightforward in their willingness to sacrifice a season to retooling for the future. The team’s efforts to reposition itself — for instance, by letting go of aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — were never likely to yield many victories this year. Under new coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics started off an unsurprising 0-4. Since then, they’ve improved a bit, but only to 8-12.

Somehow, though, this was enough to claim first place this week. One big advantage to playing in the lowly Atlantic Division, the NBA’s worst, is that even a .400 team can shine. The Celtics are two games ahead of Brooklyn, where Pierce and Garnett now reside. The 37-year-old Stevens, who led tiny Butler College to two national championship games, has if nothing else instilled a scrappy style in his team.

Stevens himself has no illusions. “It’s not like we’re lighting the world on fire,” he said. Some fans no doubt saw hope in failure: A truly awful record would yield a one-in-seven lottery chance at the top draft pick next year, which could yield a superstar to build a new team around. But these Celtics deserve credit for actually trying to win, even if it puts hopes for a lottery pick on hold. Previously unthinkable, a playoff appearance looks like at least a mathematical possibility — and would be a reward of its own.

Loading comments...

Wake up with today's top stories.

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
or
Please enter a valid email
BostonGlobe.com will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com