BOSTON (CBS) – The feeling on Sunday night in Boston was bittersweet.
The Boston Celtics beat LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Miami Heat 100-98 in double overtime, but it was revealed Rajon Rondo’s season was over thanks to a knee injury he suffered just 48 hours before in Atlanta. Now the feeling in Boston is just bitter. Talk about fair-weather fans; Rondo’s out, the Celtics are doomed. The era is over. They need to blow up the roster immediately if not sooner.
I don’t remember the Patriots imploding in 2008 when Tom Brady suffered a similar injury sidelining him for the entire season. In fact, they finished 11-5. (Yes, they missed the playoffs, but they were the first 11-win team not to make the playoffs since the expansion to a 12-team post season). The Patriots survived without TB12 and the Celtics will survive without RR9. Things like this happen.
Are the Celtics going to win the Championship this year? Probably not, but don’t count them out so soon. Kevin Garnett was right when he said, “we lost a major piece of the puzzle,” but the Celtics have played well without Rondo. They are 3-3 this season, and now is the time to see how the team’s remaining pieces come together. If they can play defense and fight to the end, like they did Sunday, this era is far from over.
Blowing up this team and starting over isn’t necessarily the answer, but taking a radical look at the roster is:
Jason Terry’s first season as a Celtic has had its ups and downs. He needs to stop deferring his shots and find his spot. With Rondo out, Doc should get JET more involved. His pull-up jumper used to be one of his most deadly weapons against defenders. No amount of coaching can solve missing wide open shots, but watching the ball sail through the net can boost a shooter’s confidence. He’s not Ray Allen, and he never will be, but don’t underestimate the former NBA sixth man of the year.
When Courtney Lee joined the team last summer he knew he’d likely play a lesser role here than he did in Houston. Now, with Rondo out for the rest of the season, his role becomes much more significant. Plus, he’s played some of his best games when stepping in for Rondo. Lee is a good corner-3 shooter, but Rondo would forget about him. Now is the time to get him more involved.
Not too long ago Leandro Barbosa allegedly requested a trade, which was denied by both Barbosa and the Celtics. While he’s struggled with some personal issues off the court, on Sunday he stepped up when the team needed him. He logged 30 minutes, scored nine points, three rebounds, four assists, a steal and drained one 3-pointer. The Celtics will need his production off the bench now that Lee will move to the starting lineup.
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I don’t know about you, but Jared Sullinger has exceeded my expectations so far this season. He’s played his way off the bench and is one of the brighter spots of the rotation. In January, his per game average is 24 minutes, 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 points. His stats are very similar to Brandon Bass’s, but he’s just playing better. Let’s hope to see more of him on the court now.
And finally, there’s Avery Bradley, one of the best defenders in the league. When it comes to covering ball handlers, he smothers them. His offensive game is spotty, but he can sink a corner three and is electric when he creates his own shots. He’s also stepped up when Pierce has an off-night.
Starting tonight against the Kings, the entire team needs to show up every night. They can still turn this around in the second half of the season. Talent isn’t the issue; this team needs to figure out how to play well enough together, long enough to win.
The Celtics currently hold the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so now’s the time to show their resiliency and develop the chemistry and camaraderie on the court. That’s the only way they’ll make it to the playoffs.
Believe it or not, losing Rondo could turn out to be a good thing. It might sound crazy, but it could be just what the Celtics need to get their 2012-13 season going.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.