This past week, I saw my beloved New England Patriots lose the AFC Championship on their home turf to the Baltimore Ravens, five days later my Boston Celtics blew a 27 point lead to the Atlanta Hawks en route to a double overtime loss. Two days after that, I learned Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the 2013 season with a torn ACL. The argument can be made this was the worst week of my life, at least in the world of sports. Most Celtics fans are on the Tobin Bridge ready to jump because of the loss of Rondo. You won’t find me on that bridge. In fact, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. I think the Celtics will be better without Rondo.
Go ahead, mock me. Call me crazy. Tell me to take my green shaded glasses off. But let’s face it. The Boston Celtics were 20-23 before Doris Burke would tell us during the game against the Miami Heat yesterday Rondo would miss the rest of the season. The truth is I don’t believe the Celtics could be any worse than what they were.
I understand the Celtics just lost their superstar point guard who leads the league in triple-doubles. I understand the Celtics lost their point guard who dishes out double-digit assists per game. I get it. At the end of the day the Celtics were a below .500 team going into yesterday’s game. In my opinion, the two best games the Celtics have played all season were against the Knicks in New York and yesterday’s contest with the Heat. In both games Rondo did not play. He was suspended for the Knicks game and we all know about yesterday.
I must preface my next few thoughts with this. People who read this blog know I am a fan of Rajon Rondo. Over the last few weeks, the Celtics were a dead team. On offensive there was too much standing around watching Rondo dribble around everybody. The Celtics were getting piss poor shots at the end of the shot clock because there was no flow to the offense. With Rondo out, this now forces everyone to be apart of the offense. The Celtics are now going to be forced to play team basketball. I like seeing Kevin Garnett work out of the post. The inevitable double-team comes and he kicks it out to a guard for an open jump shot. It is really simple. The problem is when Rondo was on the court KG wouldn’t play near the basket because he didn’t want to clog the paint. With Rondo out, I expect better team basketball out of the Celtics.
Remember how excited I was about the Celtics depth back in October? We will now see that luxury unfold for the rest of the season. Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa know they are going to get their chance to play. While none of the above are true point guards, I believe they can adequately handle point guard duties in small doses.
In a weird kind of way, Paul Pierce will be re-energized with Rondo going down. Paul Pierce will once again be The Man for the Celtics. Too much was made of making it known the 2013 Celtics were Rondo’s team. The fact is this team belongs to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. I expect Pierce to embrace the challenge of being the go to guy. He will play a lot of point forward. Throughout Pierce’s career, he has always been at his best with the ball in his hands. He is not like Ray Allen who runs off picks all day long. Pierce is at his best when he can drive to the basket or pull off his patented step back jumper from the elbow. Pierce is obviously on the back nine of his career. This will be his last go around as the head honcho.
Even with Rondo out, I believe this Celtics roster as currently constituted can beat every team in the Eastern Conference in a 7 game series. No doubt, Miami will give them their biggest challenge. I don’t see any scenario in which the Celtics can get better than they are right now this season. Trading Pierce and/ or Garnett makes no sense. There is no way the Celtics can obtain equal or greater value for either player. Not only do they still have the talent to compete, they are also mentoring younger players like Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger how to play the game. Don’t discount that last intangible. Garnett has done wonders for the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis. Garnett and Pierce are essential to the proper growth and development of Sullinger, Bradley, and even Fab Mello.
Maybe I am overly sentimental when it comes to my teams. But I also believe I am being objective in looking at this year’s roster. The season ending injury to the team’s best player could be the best thing that could have happened to this team. I believe it will allow different players to step up and play key roles and it will motivate the players to “win it for Rondo.”As Sean Grande tweeted yesterday, “On a day when the Celtics lost their best player, they also found their heart.”
I believe in heart. The Celtics haven’t played with it at all this season until yesterday. Now the Celtics are motivated to shut up all the media pundits that are writing their 2013 obituary. I won’t write off the Celtics just yet, and frankly, you don’t have any reason to either.
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