NBA East: Boston Starts Life Without Injured Rondo

By David A.

The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in the NBA, but this season has been a struggle for the team and over the last week has gotten even worse. Last weekend, point guard and the league’s leader in assists, Rajon Rondo, tore his ACL and will miss the rest of this season. Adding insult to injury, the Celtics found out on Friday that their top draft pick Jared Sullinger would also be lost for the season, as the big man will have back surgery.

Boston currently has worked their way up to eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 23-23. The Celtics, even without Rondo, have won two straight games and three straight overall. However, the Celtics will need both the skills of the players that remain on the team as well as the talent of Head Coach Doc Rivers to guide them the rest of this season. With 36 games left in the regular season, Boston needs to find an answer to the loss of Rondo and quick.

First thought is that the team’s leading scorer, veteran forward Paul Pierce would play a combination role and become the point forward. In the past, when Rondo was out, Pierce’s assists would always increase. Pierce knows how to make pinpoint passes and his experience will help to fill some of the void.

Pierce was trying to over compensate for the loss of Rondo against the Sacramento Kings this week and Coach Rivers had to remind the veteran that he was the team’s high scorer and needed to continue scoring. By the end of the game, Pierce had obliged and scored 16 points to lead the team to a 99-81 rout of the Kings.

Rivers has insisted the team will not have to make any minor, much less major, changes with Rondo out of the lineup. Their biggest obstacle will be to get the ball movement Rondo provided with his ball handling and that will only come from crisp passes.

Rondo was averaging 11.1 assists per game when he went down injured. The Celtics will not have anyone picking up that slack but both Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry, the nearest things Boston has to point guards, will have to step up and help, but help also has to come from the team’s big men as well. For example, the leader in assists against Sacramento was Kevin Garnett the team’s veteran big man.

Boston, when Rondo was healthy, would play its second unit without a point guard and the first unit will have to do that now. The players will have to spread the floor as much as possible and move the ball around the perimeter and into the low post. The system is entirely different from what the team’s first unit is accustomed to but as professionals the players must step up and embrace it or the remaining part of the season will be the longest in their careers.

Even though Boston has only played two games sans Rondo, they are 2-0 but a long way off from showing they will have the staying power needed to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Nevertheless, the team has started to show they can change their style and the results have shown they at least will be competitive.