Column: What's next for Celtics without Rondo?
As a Celtics fan, I never thought that beating the Heat in double overtime would ever be a bittersweet victory, but on Sunday I was proved wrong.
One would think that beating LeBron James and Benedict Allen, as he is known in my household, at home to snap the six-game losing streak would have been would have been an incredible storyline. However, the only snapping was happening in Rajon Rondo's knee as the unfortunate news of the All-Star's torn ACL spread throughout the sports world.
Boston was deflated like a day old birthday balloon. Rondo, who was recently selected to his fourth All-Star game, will miss the remainder of the season and there is no current timetable on his return. Doc Rivers informed his team of the new development in the locker room after beating the Heat 100-98.
Well, now what?
That is the question sportswriters, fans and presumably the Celtics organization are all asking. The Celtics are currently 21-23 and are the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, a lackluster start to a season that many saw as a last hoorah for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics' season is looking like a lost one.
However, Rivers thinks otherwise. He was quoted by ESPN's Chris Forsberg saying "you can write the obituary, but I'm not. We're going nowhere."
I want to believe Doc, but I do not know if I can. I mean, do not get me wrong, Rivers has been the best coach of the Celtics in my lifetime. Granted I grew up in the down era of Celtic's history and was not old enough to witness the late great Red Auerbach coach. But, Rivers has been better than Chris Ford, M.L. Carr and of course, Rick Pitino.
Rivers has had a successful run with the Celtics in recent history and that 2007-08 championship team was one of the best seasons of basketball I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Nobody knows this Celtics team better than Rivers and it is hard to argue against him after that recent win over the Heat, but I am skeptical if this team can keep the momentum going for the rest of the year without Rondo.
Right now it looks like the point will be run by a committee of Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and maybe support of Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa. Who knows, maybe Pierce can act as a point forward, but a point guard committee is not how you want to run a team. I might not be an NBA coach, but I have a hunch.
Rondo, who leads the league with 11.1 assists per game, is responsible for a league-leading average 24.3 points off of those assists. Combine that with his 13.7 points per game and Rondo is personally responsible for 38 points per game.
However, there are some stats that might prove otherwise. The Celtics have played 2167 total minutes this season, 1423 minutes with Rondo on the court and 744 minutes without him. Efficiency is a statistic that is calculated by points per 100 possessions. With Rondo on the floor, the Celtics have an offensive efficiency of 99.2 and a defensive efficiency of 100.5, yielding a net efficiency of negative 1.3. When Rondo is not on the floor, the Celtics have an offensive efficiency of 100.4 and a defensive efficiency of 100, resulting in a net efficiency of .4.
It may be a slight increase in efficiency without Rondo, but it is difficult to put your faith in this statistic because there are many variables that will present themselves as the season progresses.
The first is injury, the unpredictable event that comes unannounced and throws a wrench right into a team's strategy, which is the situation the Celtics are dealing with now.
Second is age, which has been a topic for this team for many years. Not to beat a dead horse, but the Celtics are old, plain and simple. They are mainly a group of seasoned veterans who want to win. Their legs are not getting any younger and they will need all their strength to battle through an 82 game season, let alone a playoff run.
Third is the unpredictability of youth. Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger will now be thrown into bigger roles and there is uncertainty to how they will respond. They have all shown promise, but now can they deliver?
Finally, there is a lack of talented big men. The Celtics rank No. 28 in rebounding and are tied for 26th with 4.1 blocks per game. Brandon Bass is not the same man he was last year, averaging one less rebound and about five less points per game than he did a season ago, Sullinger is a rookie and Chris Wilcox is not the answer either. It looks like Garnett will be taking on most the work load, but he is also 36 years old. The Celtics can play small, using Pierce and Green as both small and power forwards, but it will be a struggle when teams want to play big.
So, welcome to the crossroads that the Celtics are in. Do they keep the team they have or do they make a trade? Rivers is happy with his team and believes in them. The Celtics always want to play for a championship, but should they prepare for the future?
I mean, Pierce has arguably the highest trade value and there is potential to get a player like Rudy Gay for him, but if Pierce was traded, Boston would explode. It would be pure blasphemy.
Well Celtics fans, looks like we will just have an interesting couple of months ahead of us. It could be a pleasant surprise, a valiant effort, a tragic loss, a time of change or some sort of combination of all of those things. Whatever it is, we will just have to wait and see.
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