BOSTON -- Give the Boston Celtics credit for maintaining their sense of humor amid an ever-changing roster.
The Celtics have made eight trades since the start of the 2014-15 season, including three in the past week. Guard Evan Turner joked that the team called attendance at the start of Wednesday's morning shootaround just to be safe.
"We did roll call this morning, went down the roster: 'Evan?' Here! 'Jared?' Here!" cracked Turner.
Coach Brad Stevens quipped, "I just ask [the front office] to email me a roster every morning."
Heck, even Celtics TV play-by-play legend Mike Gorman kept things light when he missed a rare broadcast, tweeting, "Haven't been traded ... Just the flu."
Boston's locker room has been a bit of a revolving door lately, but the remaining players seem to understand the direction of the team and what it means for those left behind. They also know there's still likely to be more activity in advance of the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
The Celtics are expected to execute their fourth trade in five (league business) days on Thursday -- giving new meaning to the familiar NBA scheduling term four-in-five -- when Boston finalizes a deal that should relocate recently acquired Austin Rivers.
Neither Rivers, Tayshaun Prince nor Nate Robinson had joined the team as of Wednesday. The team is expected to finalize a buyout for Robinson on Thursday, just 48 hours after acquiring him from Denver in a swap for Jameer Nelson. Prince's future, meanwhile, remains uncertain as he's a buyout candidate as well.
The team's activity might actually slow down a bit after Thursday, though that can change with one phone call inquiring about some of the remaining veteran talent.
"We’ve had a lot of change, but I do think, certainly, that change seems to be winding down, as far as the number of moves and all of those things," Stevens said. "I feel good about moving forward with this group and we talked a little bit about that [Wednesday] morning as a team, just trying to stay in the moment, being as good as we can be at the things that we can control."
The Celtics dropped a 105-91 decision Wednesday night to the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks, who were resting starters Al Horford and Kyle Korver in what was supposed to be a national TV broadcast. The NBA correctly audibled to a Chicago-Washington matchup given the disparity between a Hawks team that has won 24 of its last 26 games and a Boston team that's on pace to win 28 games this season.
The Celtics understand the strange spot they currently stand in. Despite their ugly 13-24 record, Boston remains just two games out of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and the team is closer to the No. 5 seed (Milwaukee at 20-19) than the next worst team in the conference (Philadelphia at 7-31).
Boston is about to embark on a six-game road trip out west, a particularly daunting trek when you consider the Celtics have lost their last 23 on the road against Western Conference opponents.
When Stevens huddled his team on Wednesday morning, his message was simple: The Celtics need to block out the noise, focus on daily improvement and see where that takes them over the final 45 games of the season.
"Coach just really spoke on how much confidence he has in us and how important it is to prepare and take each day and make the most of it," Turner said.
Stevens noted how the core of the team remains intact. Boston has integrated newcomer Jae Crowder into the starting lineup, and he's surrounded by a young core that features many of Boston's recent draft picks -- Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, James Young. That's a group of players the Celtics are hellbent on developing moving forward.
"The majority of the guys that are here have been here," Stevens said. "Some of them are playing more, some of playing extended roles. Some of them are being thrown to the wolves in some ways."
Well, it's probably better than being thrown to the Wolves. (The Celtics actually cap their upcoming road trip with a stop in Minnesota on Jan. 28; it might be their most winnable game of the trip outside of the Lakers tilt.)
Wednesday's game reminded Boston of where they want to get. The front office is overhauling the roster with a goal of getting to where the Hawks have climbed. If nothing else, the Celtics seem ready for the long road ahead.