BOSTON (CBS) – Shortly after one of their best wins of the season, Celtics players learned they would be without point guard Rajon Rondo for the rest of the season.
That news quickly put a cloud over the team’s hard-fought 100-98 double overtime win over the Miami Heat at the Garden on Sunday. Rondo was a late scratch with a hyper extended knee, but it was announced during the game he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Friday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks and would require season-ending surgery.
Most of the Celtics players did not learn of the news until they reached the locker room. Celtics captain Paul Pierce first heard about the loss of Rondo in his post-game on-court interview, and was pretty down about the news when asked in the locker room.
“It’s like an upper and a downer,” Pierce said. “It’s a great win. You get on an emotional high, then you come in the locker room and you see that Rondo’s probably going to be out for the season, you’ve got a lot of mixed emotions in here.”
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“It’s just like you want to celebrate the win, but you feel for your teammate or leader — a guy who, pretty much, as he goes we go, and he’s going to be out for the year. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
“It was a big blow to everybody in here, me included,” said forward Kevin Garnett, who scored 24 points to go with 11 rebounds on Sunday. “Man, that hurt. It’s tough. We had a tough game, came in, and he told the whole team in the locker room. It’s tough, tough on everybody.
“(Rondo is) becoming the heart and soul of this team,” added Garnett.
Rondo will reportedly undergo surgery within the next 10 days, according to Sports Illustrated. A long recovery will follow, likely eight to ten months. It will be hard to replace the flashy playermaker, as Rondo was averaging career highs with 13.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, to go with his league-leading 11.1 assists per game.
But while many will write the Celtics off for the rest of this season, head coach Doc Rivers isn’t one of them.
“You can write the obituary, but I’m not,” said Rivers. “The way I look at it we’re going to stay in there. In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”
“I like our team still. That’s a huge blow for us, but when something like this happens we’ll find someone that’s already in our locker room that is going to play terrific,” Doc continued. “I don’t know who that is. Tonight it was [Leandro Barbosa] and the whole team, and that’s what we’re going to have to be.”
“>Rivers said they’ll run a spread offense without Rondo, and ball handling duties will fall on multiple guys. The benefit of that is it’s something the Boston second unit has been doing this season.
“I guess the only break for us is we’ve been working with the second unit with this offense, and the first unit plays against it every day and even runs it some. At least we have a feel for something,” said Rivers.
In Rondo’s absence, Avery Bradley will likely take over starting point guard duties with Courtney Lee sliding into the two-guard spot. It will be impossible for the Celtics to duplicate what Rondo brings to the floor, but a full team effort will help ease the blow on a nightly basis.