Court Vision: Wrapping up the Rajon Rondo injury reaction
By Ben Golliver
• The Celtics announced Sunday that All-Star point Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL in his right knee that will require season-ending surgery.
• Rob Mahoney here at The Point Forward offered a thorough breakdown of life without Rondo.
• Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com with a great behind-the-scenes look at how news of the injury spread during Sunday’s game between the Celtics and Heat in Boston.
His teammates played on, oblivious that their long-term fortunes had just suffered a serious blow. The Heat also were unaware of Rondo’s plight — until 2:50 p.m., when Dwyane Wade left the court and entered the visiting locker room, presumably to use the facilities.
“What’s going on?” he asked me as he walked by.
“Rondo has a torn ACL,” I answered.
“No, please. Don’t tell me that,” Wade said with a grimace. “Oh, that’s awful. Now listen, we have a bad history, but I never wish that on anyone.”
• Paul Pierce finds out the bad news from Doris Burke live on air. Video via YouTube user NBAUS3030.
• Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com reports from the postgame locker room.
“It’s a blow, man. I’m not even going to front, it was a blow,” said Kevin Garnett. “We were in here just talking about the game, and then he walks in and ‘Do (Rondo is) really hype. He was quiet and the staff came in and told us what’s going on.”
• Camerato also rounds up all the Twitter well-wishes to Rondo, including notes from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
• Celtics coach Doc Rivers is most definitely not taking the news lying down, WEEI.com notes.
“Obviously the Rondo news is pretty tough,” Rivers said. “I knew it before the game; no one else knew it. I just didn’t think it was any time to tell any of our guys that. I told them after the game. Pretty emotional in the locker room.”
“Well, you can write the obituary. I’m not,” Rivers said. “You can go ahead. But I’m not. We won tonight, and so the way I look at it is: we’re going to stay in there. In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”
• Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald has Celtics president Danny Ainge’s reaction.
“We weren’t going to trade Rondo,” Ainge said flatly. “But I’m not going to bring someone in now who is just going to sit on the bench. We could sign a couple of players to minimum contracts, but that’s all we can do right now. We have to see whether someone becomes available through trade or free agency who can actually crack our rotation.
“Right now I’m looking to give the guys we have a chance to play,” he said. “Then we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.”
• Paul Flannery of SBNation.com explores the Celtics’ tight spot.
The reality is they are up against the hard cap, meaning they can barely afford to take on any more salary and even if they could it’s not like there are veteran point guards waiting by the phone who could make a difference. Not to mention adding another guard would do nothing to address their most pressing needs, which are size and scoring.
There’s a reason Ainge has been so patient this year and it’s not just because he was waiting to see if his team would find itself. The Celtics best hope was always to fix themselves from within. Of course Ainge will listen to any and all offers, but he doesn’t have to make a panic trade to salvage a season that may have been beyond repair anyway.
“We won tonight and the way I look at it is we’re going to stay in there,” Rivers said. “In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”
That may be true in more ways than one.
• Jeff Clark of Celtics Blog addresses the “What’s next?” question.
More pressing is what Danny Ainge will do in the near future. If he still wishes to dismantle the team, he’s got a few pieces that he could move for marginal value. But he’d also be “selling” at a huge disadvantage due to having zero leverage. So again, nickels on the dollar if that.
Does he then make a move to patch some holes (namely at point guard and center) and hope for the best? Perhaps, but he can’t do that at the expense of the future. So don’t count on bringing in Pau Gasol and some point guard while giving up Avery Bradley and/or Jared Sullinger. That cannot happen.
So we’re kind of back where we started. Ainge will make a deal if it makes sense for the present and the future (which has always been the case). The big difference is that the present just became a whole lot cloudier.
• Zach Lowe of Grantland.com assesses the Celtics’ outlook this season, suggesting trade proposals involving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
All that said, the Celtics are still a decent bet to make the playoffs, if only because no one has a clue when Andrew Bynum will return. The Sixers can improve their odds by making up ground in their next seven games, all at home against some solid competition. Detroit and Toronto loom as possible threats, but both have played easy schedules, and though Detroit has recovered after a rough start and found a useful bench unit, neither projects as a team that is going to play well over .500 the rest of the way.
But sneaking into the postseason for a whitewashing at the hands of the Heat is not a worthy goal — not if Boston can get something useful in exchange for Garnett and Pierce.
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com floats a possible Celtics/Grizzlies trade scenario.
Before Rondo’s knee surgery was even scheduled, rival executives already began speculating that the loss of the Celtics’ best player could accelerate the inevitable rebuild. Much of the speculation, for good reason, surrounds Pierce, whose scoring panache could push a contender over the top without compromising the plan for the future. Pierce’s contract, with only $4 million guaranteed next season, is as tradeable as it gets in the NBA.
One team that rival execs expect to be at the forefront of the Pierce pursuit is Memphis, which delayed but did not solve its long-term payroll concerns by getting under the luxury-tax line with last week’s trade with Cleveland. While Memphis can survive for the rest of this season without trading Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, it still cannot sustain such a top-heavy payroll for the next two seasons. Pierce would keep the Grizzlies dangerous — arguably, make them more dangerous — for the rest of this season, and allow them to reorganize their spending as soon as next season.
• Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider) writes that the Celtics might not totally fall apart without Rondo.
They’re 3-3 overall when Rondo has been either suspended or injured, but given the difficulty of those games — four of the first five came on the road against likely playoff teams — a surprising fact emerges: The Celtics have been better without Rondo than they’ve been with him in 2012-13.
That matches what plus-minus statistics show this season. According to NBA.com/Stats, the Celtics have been 1.6 points better per 100 possessions with Rondo on the bench, a difference that can be traced almost entirely to their scoring more points without him. Though the team has shot better with the NBA’s assist leader on the floor, other lineups get to the free throw line more frequently because of Rondo’s reluctance to draw shooting fouls.
• Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wonders whether a shake-up will actually take place.
There have been increasing signs that Boston may be forced to consider a move or moves. Danny Ainge, though, has always tried to downplay those ideas and remain patient. Ainge has spoken often of how the Bird-era Celtics hung on too long, but he seems emotionally attached to this core that netted the team a champioship and multiple Eastern Conference championship appearances. With a weak Eastern Conference and little chance of getting superb return for their older players, will a blowup really change anything? These questions and more will face Ainge in the coming days.
• Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie looks at who should replace Rajon Rondo in next month’s All-Star Game, noting that Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will likely move into the starting role for the East.
Brook Lopez should have been on the All-Star team to begin with. My appreciation for Luol Deng’s work was stated above, nothing should take away from what he’s given to the Bulls (and opposing small forwards, for that matter), but Lopez has enjoyed the better year despite Deng playing 427 more minutes than Lopez this season. Brook’s pick and roll work remains sub-standard, but he has improved overall defensively and his Net teammates have worked wonders in making his biggest weakness less glaring. This is far from an All-Star argument, but 18.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 52 percent shooting in just 29 minutes a game should drive it home.
Replacing a point guard with a center – the fourth center on the East’s roster, depending on what you think of Kevin Garnett’s role – isn’t a problem. We’re not picking sides. We’re not building a team, fantasy or otherwise. We’re picking the 12 best players in the Eastern conference, and if they all shift toward a certain position … who cares? This is an exhibition to be played for fun. At the end of a career we rank All-Star berths, and not “missed the team that year because they really needed help on the wing.”
• Andrew Sharp of SBNation on Rondo’s personality.
Rondo’s not gone for long, and this isn’t a eulogy or anything. In the grand scheme of things, missing a year shouldn’t be that big of a deal, and he’ll be back melting our brains soon enough. But to understand why basketball addicts were so depressed by Sunday’s news, you have to understand Rondo as more than just a good player. His weird, OCD antics will make you laugh. He’ll make you gawk as he wraps his endless limbs around and somehow through the defense. His presence will makes the Celtics competitive, always, even though he’ll sometimes disappear and drive you crazy. And then sometimes he’ll hit another level where he becomes unstoppable and leaves everyone kinda dumbfounded.
It’s all there, distilled into one gawky weirdo. The guy who’s incredible and hilarious, tougher and smarter than anyone realizes, moody or the perfect teammate depending on whose story you’re reading, but always hypnotic because you never know what’s coming next, even as you’re trying to figure out what you just saw. The current Celtics team may be dead now, but here’s to hoping Rondo comes back and better and stranger than ever, because there’s just nobody else like him. The one NBA superstar who doesn’t fit with the rest sorta personifies why we love the whole league.
• Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider has more trade scenarios, including Garnett/Pierce packages to the Lakers, Jazz and Timberwolves.
• Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports that former Celtics point guard Keyon Dooling would consider a comeback.
Dooling, 32, retired after last season following shocking revelations that he was sexually abused as a child. He joined the Celtics front office in October and has been working in an advisory role, taking selected road trips with the club.
He said he has entertained thoughts of return to the court, and the Celtics now have a need for a veteran point guard.
“I’m not in shape, but I would [consider it],” he told the Globe after the Celtics’ 100-98 double-overtime win over the Heat Sunday at TD Garden.
• Kevin Scheitrum has a list of the best available D-League point guards.