Celtics

Celtics forced to look for options in wake of Rondo's injury

989863.jpg

Celtics forced to look for options in wake of Rondo's injury

BOSTON The Boston Celtics locker room was a joyful place in the moments following Sunday's 100-98 double overtime win over Miami.

And then, Doc Rivers broke the news of the night to them.

Rajon Rondo had a torn ACL injury and was going to be out for the rest of the season.

The loss of Rondo has ramifications on so many levels, for so many individuals.

No Rondo means the Celtics will be sifting through the free agent and D-League waters to see if there's a point guard they can bring in to add some depth to the backcourt.

Although it's too soon to tell what level of interest there is now, the Celtics are likely to look into adding former Celtic Delonte West.

A league source told CSNNE.com earlier this season that the only way the C's would even consider bringing West back for a third stint in Boston, would be if one of the guards currently on the roster suffered a long-term injury.

Beyond West, the pickings are pretty slim when it comes to point guards via free agency.

Boston might tap into the D-League and look to call up Andre Barrett who leads the D-League in assists with 11.2 per game. And unlike a number of D-League playmakers looking for that next big break, Barrett does have NBA experience with six different teams and currently plays for the Celtics' D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers wouldn't touch the subject, with the knowledge of Rondo being lost for the season still too fresh.

"I was just trying to think straight during the game," said Rivers, who did not find out about Rondo not playing until about 24 minutes prior to the game starting.

"Rondo was still in the starting lineup and Dr. (Brian) McKeon grabbed me and said, 'He's out.' And I said, 'he went through our walk-through.' And then he said, 'No, he's out.' And so, I was trying to go in the locker room and talk about the game with that, thinking about that thought."

Within moments of Rivers breaking the news to his players, a wide range of emotions swept through the Celtics locker room, with shock and disappointment being the two most prominent.

Rivers had an idea shortly before tip-off that Rondo's injury might keep him out for the season, but wouldn't let on to his players or even Rondo who had an MRI performed and returned to the TD Garden by halftime.

"I couldn't tell him because I wasn't positive," Rivers said.

Not surprisingly, the locker room was unusually subdued after such a huge win, and with good reason.

The Celtics won the game and moments later found out that they were losing arguably their best player for the rest of the season.

Losing Rondo has to put the C's season in a completely different context now. With him, they were a team struggling but one that many felt would get better and be a potential thorn in some team's side come playoff time with Rondo leading the charge.

Now?

The road to being one of the last teams standing just got tougher - a lot tougher.

Even with the knowledge that Rondo won't be on the floor anytime soon, the Celtics still talk a confident game.

"We still like our chances in the Eastern Conference," Pierce said. "We found we can play with anybody with the team we put out there. Even without Rondo."

But can the C's compete with the elite teams without Rondo?

Teams like ... the Heat.

"He (Rondo) makes most of the triggers for this team," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "He pretty much does it all ... you see a triple-double in the making, in the sense so he's gonna be missed. But it's the NBA and guys are gonna step up and get their opportunity. They'll learn how to play without what he brings to the game, and other guys can bring."

His absence puts greater pressure on Boston's guards to step up and make an impact beyond the roles they have had which focus primarily on playing off of Rondo.

"Whatever Doc (Rivers) wants me to play, that's what I'm going to do," said Boston's Avery Bradley who will likely see more time playing the point now. "I'm going to go out there and give it my all. No matter if its' the 2 (shooting guard) or the 1 (point guard), I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can."

And that effort from Bradley and the rest of the C's is all Rivers has to hear in order for his belief in this team to be remain as strong now as it was prior to Rondo's injury.

"Obviously that's a blow; it's a huge blow for us," Rivers said about losing Rondo for the season. "When something like this happens, someone will find someone that's already in our locker room that's going to play terrific. And I have no idea who it is."

When you consider how the Celtics struggled with Rondo, the idea of not having him will surely bring about even more pessimism in regards to Boston's chances to be successful moving forward.

"Well you can write the obituary. I'm not," Rivers said. "You can go ahead. But I'm not. We won tonight, and so that way I look at it is, we're going to stay in there. In my opinion, we're going nowhere."

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

BOSTON – You had to figure Golden State’s explosive offense would probably come up a little short scoring-wise against the Boston Celtics and their top-rated defense. 

But for them to score 88 points – that’s about 32 below their average – was very one of those, “where the hell did that come from?” moments. 

And it was exactly what the Celtics needed to escape with a 92-88 win that extended their winning streak to 14 in a row but maybe most important, put the entire league on notice that this streak they’re on right now … it’s real. 

“They wrote us off coming in, saying Golden State was gonna beat us, and do this and do that,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “We came out and played basketball. Even though we got down, the make-up of our team is staying in; we’re resilient.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s signature win of the season, 92-88 over Golden State which extended Boston’s winning streak to 14 straight. 

 

BROWN’S GROWTH

Jaylen Brown was playing with a heavy heart less than 24 hours after the death of his best friend. But as we’ve seen in this still-young season, Brown is very much one of the league’s emerging talents. He certainly played that role on Thursday in leading Boston with 22 points with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.  

 

TALE OF TWO HALVES FOR TATUM

There’s something about the second half of games against elite players that brings out the best in Jayson Tatum. When Boston opened the season at Cleveland, Tatum was noticeably better in the second half than the first. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, it was more of the same. In the first half he had just two points only to finish with a 10-point second half (7 coming in the fourth) for a 12-point game on 2-for-5 shooting. 

 

AL HORFORD

As well as he’s played, a strong case can be made for Horford being a league MVP instead of their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving. Horford tallied a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with a pair of assists. Horford now has six double-doubles this season which equals his double-double total from all of last season. 

 

MARCUS SMART

As much as you know Smart makes great effort plays consistently and does indeed make a difference when he’s on the court, his shooting woes are reaching critical mass even as Boston continues to gobble up wins. In the last five games, Smart has averaged 7.6 points. That’s not too bad, right? But then you look and see that he’s shooting 19.2 percent (10-for-52) in that span. Ouch! So far, the Celtics have been able to find success despite his shooting struggles. But you have to anticipate at some point it’ll catch up with them. 

 

SHORTENED ROTATION

For most of this season, pretty much everyone who suits up for the Celtics, have played. But against the Warriors, it had the feel of a playoff-like rotation with head coach Brad Stevens playing 10 guys with nine reaching double digits in minutes played. Considering how the second unit struggled to make shots (they missed 17 of their 19 shot attempts), it’s understandable why head coach Brad Stevens leaned a little heavier than usual on his second unit.