Paul Pierce and the Celtics have had a chance to show their toughness with Rondo out
The Boston Celtics won their seventh straight game Sunday, this one a triple overtime epic against the Denver Nuggets. It was another bar fight for a Celtics team that has become accustomed to them over the past two seasons. Even in the wake of that game, the major national story remains the same as it ever was. It is the story of Boston Celtics star point-guard Rajon Rondo who tore his ACL two weeks ago and missed the national television bout against the Miami Heat. Since that win, the Boston Celtics have won seven in a row with the key being without Rondo, their supposed “best player”. Suddenly, all of the trade rumors over the years involving Rondo seem to make sense. These Celtics are better without Rondo and the sooner they trade him, the better. This is the thought.
I don’t believe this. I refuse to believe this. There are other reasons for the success of the Celtics besides the wicked witch of Kentucky is dead and gone. I can’t be told that without Rondo the Celtics win the Eastern Conference a season ago if the Celtics are really so much better without Rondo. My own eyes told me he was the very reason that they were a game away from reaching the Finals. Without his performances, the Boston Celtics sputter out against the Hawks or the 76ers. Rajon Rondo carried them, playing nearly every minute and willing the team game after game.
Compare last years team with the Celtics as currently constructed. Last years team succeeded because they learned quickly who they were and how they played basketball. When injuries ravaged the team, they developed a rigid nine man rotation based on defensive pressure and Rondo’s ability to create easy shots for a mostly jump-shooting team. Until Rondo’s injury, the extended bench of the Celtics actually make it more difficult to establish a rotation, chemistry, even an identity. The injury jump-started that process this year. With more personal on the roster that can create shots with the ball, not necessarily without it in a point-guard dominated offense. The offense no longer has a point-guard; no one person dominates the ball. It moves around and allows more creation by individuals. Some like Jason Terry have even thrived in it and enjoying the unpredictably of multiple ball handlers. If anyone is a “point-guard” it’s Paul Pierce who has revived his early career role of “primary” ball-handler, with primary being a nice way of putting it.
The Celtics also do their best with their backs against the wall and in the “nobody believes in us role”. Last year with everyone calling them old and shallow, the Boston Celtics fought back to win the Atlantic Division and make the Eastern Conference Finals. This after being written off numerous times over the season. This year, same thing. They were being written off after every losing streak this season and more so after Rondo went down. The Celtics are at their best in these situations, reaching deep inside for that fire that gets them going, the grit and balls that gave them their swagger a year ago.
Don’t say they are better without Rondo. Without Rondo everything gets a little bit tougher for the Boston Celtics and it also means they lose National Television Rondo. NTVR shows up every day in the playoffs and is a top-five player in the entire league. That is an almost indisputable fact. They aren’t a better team, just a more energized team. They continue to try to prove people wrong and this has just been another bump in the road. Its simply a benefit of of being one of the toughest teams in the league.