We have reached the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season and a few storylines have jumped to the top of the news.
The Pelicans logo ain’t half bad.
The Old Sacramento Kings are the new Seattle Sonics.
Stephen Curry was the only real snub from the All-Star team.
Last Sunday, the Boston Celtics took an unexpected hit when the team learned All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Coming into the season, Rondo was set to show offensive growth. Saying so himself just before he began the year. Instead, Rondo gave us more of the same: lots of assists, an inconsistent jump shot, and an inability to carry the offensive load for Boston.
Now that Rondo is done for the season, the Celtics are at a crossroad. Do they start the rebuilding process early by trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce? Or do they stay the course and keep pushing toward an unlikely trip to the Finals.
Rebuilding isn’t really an option for Boston –
And there’s one major reason: No team on Earth is trading valuable assets for Garnett or Pierce (the only tradable players on the roster) at this point. Those guys are worth way more to Boston than any other team. Plus they aren’t cheap options for another team. Pierce will make $17 million this year (and over 15 next season) while Garnett is due around $12 million for this season and the next two. Even if Boston could move one or both of these players, they won’t receive a young, talented player or a decent draft pick in return…so they wouldn’t actually be rebuilding anything.
Since the Celtics are stuck with that they have, they need to look down the roster and assess the players that are left. The truth is, the C’s aren’t that much worse off without Rondo the remainder of this season. Consider…
The Celtics aren’t that great right now with Rondo –
…so no need in acting like the team was perfect. The Celtics have been up-and-down this year in part because of Rondo. They are currently 21-23, with a firm hold on 8th place in the East. Way below expectations when the core of the team was brought back for another run.
With Pierce and Garnett past their primes, Rondo had every opportunity to take more of a leadership role and carry the team when needed. He’d chosen instead to remain mostly in his comfort zone, passing the responsibility back to Pierce and Garnett. The results haven’t been pretty. The Celtics had lost six in a row (including one to Detroit) before an exciting double overtime win over Miami this Sunday…without Rondo. You saw glimpses of the team Boston can be when motivated. You also saw…
The offense running like…a regular NBA offense –
You might think, by this point, that I don’t like Rondo. That is absolutely untrue. I love Rondo’s tenacity on the court. He played with a dislocated elbow(!). He guarded LeBron in the fourth quarter of playoff games. AND he’s a damn good point guard.
I also acknowledge Rondo’s major flaws. His jumper is so inconsistent you are genuinely surprised when he makes a three pointer. He passes out of open shots in the lane to rack up assists trying too hard to get his teammates involved. And his temper has gone too far at times, costing him several games in suspensions (including some in the playoffs).
When you add the positives and negatives, you get an elite point guard…but one you have to make certain allowances for. Without Rondo, the Celtics will rely on Avery Bradley handling the ball, Courtney Lee at shooting guard, the improving Jared Sullinger, and the majority of plays running through Pierce/Garnett. That’s not a bad starting five! Given the age of the primary scorers for Boston, that puts pressure on Jason Terry and Jeff Green to score points when Pierce and Garnett have to rest.
This begs the question…
Can Jeff Green continue to be that Jeff Green? –
Watching Green play against Miami this weekend was a lot of fun. He was aggressive, hit a three, and played good defense on LeBron and Dwyane Wade. He looked like the guy Boston thought they’d be getting when they signed him to a four-year contract…instead of the guy they actually got thus far this season.
If Boston can rely on solid contributions from Green on both sides of the ball, Boston can keep improving despite the loss of Rondo.
It would help if Terry could find his jumpshot sometime soon.
Before you write off the Celtics, consider these four points and the 15-13 record Boston struggled to by the midway point of last season (albeit a condensed one). Despite the bad start last year, Boston finished the season a game away from the Finals. There is reason to hope, Celtics fans.
What do you think, NBA Fans? Are the Celtics done for? Would they be better off trading who the can to prepare for the future? Let me know in the comments below!