The Celtics were off to one of their usual slow starts this year. They were fitting in new pieces and trying to get their rhythm going as they were struggling to fend off the Philadelphia 76ers for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The new pieces were not exactly fitting in as well, but the main ingredient in the Celtics team, point guard Rajon Rondo, was facilitating and helping to keep the Celtics collective heads above water for the most part. The Celtics had suffered a six game losing streak heading in their game on Sunday versus the Miami Heat. They won the game against the Heat on Sunday, but the news that the team received during and after the game was the most glaring and hurting news they could receive.
Rondo was scratched before the game and was thought to be going to get an MRI on a hyper-extended knee. But in that MRI, it was discovered that Rondo did not have a hyper-extended knee, but a torn ACL. The star point guard will be out for the season and the Celtics will now have an uphill battle to make it into the playoffs, let alone battle for the Eastern crown. So, now that Rondo is out, how do the Celtics replace him?
Rondo was the one player on the Celtics team that could help create for everyone around him. He made the game easy for all of his teammates and set them up for easy shots. Creating those easy shots will not be a simple task going forward. Guard Avery Bradley is more of a defensive specialist than a creator. Guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry are more scorers and shooters than creators as well. So the burden of creating for others will now fall on the shoulders of small forward Paul Pierce.
The veteran small forward may not have the craftiness and the speed of Rondo, but he does put pressure on defenses with his shooting and his seductive pump fakes. With those pump fakes, he gets defenders off balance which allows him to be able to get in the lane and create for others. Another guy that must step it up offensively and create for others will be Kevin Garnett. The veteran big man must post more. The more he is able to be effective in the post, the more he will be able to suck in the defense and set up those easy shots for guys like Jason Terry and the previously mentioned Courtney Lee.
Another issue going forward will be replacing the fast-break points that Rondo could create. The superstar point guard was the best in the NBA at being a one-man fast break. He is the only guy in the NBA that can have three defenders to face on a fast break and still get an easy layup out of it. To be honest, there is no one that can replace that kind of precision on the fast break. But perhaps to supplement those easy baskets, the Celtics need to give Leandro Barbosa more playing time. The veteran guard, whose nickname is the Brazilian Blur, can still put pressure on defenses when given the chance and the freedom to do so. Celtics coach Doc Rivers must allow Barbosa to get back to that style of play or else the Celtics will struggle to score all season long.
With these two adjustments, the Celtics could keep up and potentially keep the ship afloat. But in the end, the loss of a superstar point guard is something that you donâ€™t overcome easy. Ask the Chicago Bulls about that one when they lost in the first round of the playoffs last year to Philadelphia. The Celtics may be down their most important player, but one thing is for sure about the Celtics: Doc Rivers will not let this team go down without a fight. It should be interesting to see what happens and what adjustments are made from here on out.
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