On Jan. 27 when the news came out that Rajon Rondo had torn his ACL and would miss the rest of the 2012-2013 NBA season, many people wrote the Boston Celtics off. It seemed absurd to think that the aging Celtics would be able to succeed without their dynamic young starting point guard on the floor.
But, succeed is exactly what they’ve done since Rondo’s injury — Boston has gone 13-4 in their 17 games without Rondo.
In the time since the injury, the Celtics have improved in most facets of the game. With Rondo, the Celtics averaged 95 points, 23 assists and 39.5 rebounds per game as a team and shot the ball at 45.7 percent from the field and 33.5 percent from long-range.
Without Rondo, Boston has averaged 98.9 points, 23.5 assists and 42.1 rebound per game and has posted a field-goal percentage of 46.3 and a three-point percentage of 37.3.
Considering that Rondo is one of the most gifted point guards and passers in the league, it’s somewhat perplexing how they could improve without him on the floor. However, looking at how Rondo plays in the context of this team, it makes a little more sense.
Rondo tends to do most of his work with the ball in his hands, which actually eats up a lot of the shot clock. This means that, a lot of the time, there is one pass from Rondo and then a shot.
But when Rondo isn’t running the offense, the Celtics focus much more on their ball movement and finding the open man. This opens up more outside shots and more high-percentage looks. That’s why they are able to score more efficiently and proficiently without Rondo.
The defense of the Celtics has been affected, too. While Rondo was healthy, the Celtics allowed 96.4 points per game and let their opponents shoot 44.6 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three. Since he’s been sidelined, Boston has improved on those numbers, allowing just 94.1 points per game and forcing opponents to shoot just 41.6 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Boston forced more turnovers with Rondo on the floor, which makes sense because he’s terrific at denying passes. However, players like Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley, who have seen more floor time with Rondo out, are much more consistent perimeter defenders, particularly on the ball.
Because of this, the Celtics are able to stay at home and force their opponents to take inefficient shots on a more regular basis.
The question that arises because of how the Celtics have played without Rondo is if they should keep him in Boston. If they are playing better without him, shouldn’t they just ship him out of town and get other quality assets for him? The answer to that is simply no.
Though Boston has been able to persevere through the injury to their superstar, it’s also kind of the last hoorah for the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce era for the Celtics. The thing about that era is that they thrive off the type of basketball that the team has been playing without Rondo.
But with Garnett and Pierce getting older and their skills declining, Rondo is the future of the franchise.
With that in mind, Boston has to keep him in town and look to build a team that is more acclimated to Rondo’s style of play so that they can be successful after Garnett and Pierce are gone.
It’s a great story that the Celtics have been able to remain relevant with an injury to their superstar. There’s no denying that it is a testament to head coach Doc Rivers, and the leadership of Garnett and Pierce.
But, the Celtics can’t overreact because of this short stretch. Rondo is the future of this organization and they can’t lose sight of that.