Ask a Boston Celtics fan the worst thing that could possibly happen to the team at the beginning of last season, and they would tell you either the Celtics being moved to Virginia Beach, or Rajon Rondo tearing his ACL.
Honestly, how unlucky can the Celtics be? Their most important player suffers (maybe) the worst injury in basketball, keeping him out of their most pressing season for the longest amount of time. Suddenly, no more Rondo.
Fast forward to today. 10-point losses and not beating the Miami Heat won’t shock us fans anymore. This is not the same Celtics team of yesterday, and fans are by no means expecting greatness. That said, there is the question of whether the Celtics can even keep it together without Rondo, period. Can we expect the league’s highest turnover ratio and sloppy play after sloppy play?
No. While the idea that the Celtics are “better off without Rondo” is a blatant misuse of the Ewing Theory and simply untrue, his presence on the court is not what keeps the Celtics playing basketball.
Perhaps the only underrated part of the current roster lies in the bench. While a good bench on a lousy team is a pretty moot point, the fact remains the Celtics have plenty of good pieces to put in Rondo’s place. None of them will be Rondo, but the Celtics’ guard rotation will cover well enough.
First, let’s remember that the Celtics have played without Rondo before. We seem to forget that Boston made the playoffs with their star player on the bench last season. Despite the fact that accolade was earned mostly through the efforts of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they got the job done.
When then-coach Doc Rivers was asked about how the absence of Rondo would be handled, he offered up and used a “by committee” system. While it wasn’t the most effective idea ever conceived for use on the hardwood, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry managed to pull it off.
This season, the Celtics have plenty of guards with very little to do. If Brad Stevens takes the “committee” route at the one, he should be met with mild success. Aside from giving out minutes and allowing him to observe his players better, it would allow Stevens to give summer league standout Phil Pressey some minutes as well.
Should Stevens choose to make one player the starting point guard until Rondo returns, he has some good candidates.
Bradley is the first that comes to mind, as he claims he has bulked up and is now more comfortable playing point, a role more suited for his size to begin with. While susceptible to turnovers, Lee could provide a decent spark while playing point as well.
Also, Jordan Crawford could potentially step up to ball-handling responsibilities. While his handles could use some work, Crawford’s speed is unmatched, and should his deficiency at passing ever hinder him, he can attack the basket or simply use his unique shooting touch to cure the problem.
Maybe the only good part of the Celtics playing lousy ball this season is that Stevens can try out each one of these guys just to see who does the job the best.
No, the Celtics will not be a great team without Rondo and yes, they still need him. In fact, they need him now more than ever. Just the same, don’t expect to see Boston do any worse than mediocre at the point guard position until December.