BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics are trying to put all the pieces in place, figuring out the puzzle of success minus All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
It will be nearly impossible to replace what Rondo brings to the floor on a given night, but that’s not the point as the Celtics move forward. Head coach Doc Rivers isn’t looking for someone to step up and become a “new Rondo.”
“There literally are no different roles,” Rivers said Tuesday prior to practice. “I don’t want anyone to think they’re Rondo now. The only difference now is someone might bring the ball up and pass it.”
“You don’t really replace a guy like Rondo. It’s hard to replace all-star guards,” said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. “It has to come from different guys, expanding certain people’s role, asking other players to do what they haven’t really been doing all year. I think we have the talent to do that. We’ve done it a few times without (Rondo); it’s just about maintaining it for a longer period of time.”
The Celtics don’t have a true backup point guard on their roster, and will now employ a system that pushes team ball movement – rather than the one that saw Rondo trying to create plays for the other four players on the court. They went with a starting back court of Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley in Sunday’s double overtime win over the Miami Heat, which is the likely combo they’ll trot out from now on without Rondo. Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry will be sprinkled into the mix off the bench, and who brings the ball up the court will change depending on who is – or isn’t – getting the defensive pressure.
It’s the way the Celtics bench has already been playing this season – which just recently started to see results.
“We were already doing it a lot with the second unit,” said Rivers. “It was a no point guard system with that unit, and it was becoming very successful.”
“I don’t think it’s that big; we’ve worked on it,” Rivers said of the adjustments the Celtics will have to make. “The second unit, they play against the first unit every day. The difference is they’ll do it full-time now.”
“I don’t see my role changing at all. The minutes are going to be more, but everything else I just have to go out and do a little bit better, a little harder,” said Lee. “On the offensive end, Rondo is a play-maker. From now on, we have to be able to execute a little bit sharper now. That’s all that’s really changing.”
The style of play will put an even greater emphasis on team basketball, something the Celtics were still searched for before Rondo went down.
“It’s very important. We’ve been feeling that way even before Rondo got hurt; we needed to come together more as a team,” said Pierce. “The chips are really stacked against us without our best player, but it’s time for other players to rise up and elevate their game.”
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The Celtics were already being written off when Rondo was in the mix, and now that their star guard is gone there is even more talk of “blowing it up” in Boston. But as always, the Celtics are saying nay to their naysayers.
“Who cares, who cares?” said Kevin Garnett. “To be honest, who cares?”
“I really don’t see anything that’s changed over the last three years,” said Pierce. “We were written off last year, the year before that. Nothing has changed in my mind.”
“I do think we can be really good,” said Rivers. “We’ll be a little different, but we can be really good.”