The Celtics Twitter is reporting that Rajon Rondo looks to be a game-time decision for tonight’s game against New Jersey despite participating in the team’s shootaround this morning in Waltham. The C’s point guard has missed the team’s last two games since straining his hamstring against Oklahoma City Friday night.
Boston has now gone 1-1 in Rondo’s absence, but arguably played their best game of the season without him Monday night in Atlanta, functioning well as a unit on both ends of the floor without their usual floor general.
With the team playing so well, Doc Rivers had an interesting quote about Rondo’s status, courtesy of Julian Benbow’s Globe Notebook:
“There’s just no benefit of playing one of your key guys, or any guy, getting them injured, and now they’re out for the season or longer than they should be,’’ Rivers said. “I would rather take the approach of doing without him early right now, and in a lot of ways it could help your team in the long run.’’
So this line got me thinking in particular…..just how long could the Celtics get away with resting Rondo right now with his injury…..and the more important question: Should they? I say yes, for a few reasons
1) Rondo had been dealing with multiple injuries
Yes, Rondo is technically dealing with the strained hamstring right now. However, remember that “mild case” of plantar fasciitis Rondo was dealing with just a couple weeks back? The case that made Rondo incapable of dribbling the ball up the floor for a couple trips late in the Chicago overtime win? Well that’s an injury that has a track record of taking a month or two to heal. In fact, it can end up affecting some guys for an entire season if you aggravate it, just ask Joakim Noah about last year. And the one real prescription for plantar fasciitis? Rest.
2) Nate Robinson is playing fantastic basketball right now
The little guy may have gotten off to a poor start this year shooting the ball, but he’s really come on in the last six games, morphing into the explosive offensive option that make the C’s even more dangerous than ever.
Just take a look at the numbers. In the past six games, Nate is shooting a tremendous 61.7 percent from the field (29/47) as well as 52 percent from downtown (12/23) in just 20 minutes a game. Throw those numbers in with 2 boards and 3 assists a contest, and you have yourself quite the capable fill-in at the starting spot.
Just as important as the offense though, has been Nate’s D. The little guy is gambling less this year (his low steal average for the year shows it) and he is working hard to stay in front of his man and work through screens while guarding larger point guards.
Finally, there’s the distribution factor. There’s no one better in the league at getting every one the ball when and where they need it than Rondo. Robinson, on the other hand is a shoot-first point guard. At least he was. I was skeptical of Nate ability’s to be any more than that in his Celtic career.
That skepticism is well warranted, yet the guy showed great strides this year, especially in the Atlanta game, of showing himself to be a capable distributor and someone with a firm grasp of the team’s halfcourt offense. Many of the easy buckets that night were set up by Robinson’s assists (10 on the night, 2nd highest of his career in a single game). His assist rate (23.3%) is also the second highest showing in a season thus far.
With a year as a Celtic under his belt, Robinson is showing the knowledge of the team’s sets, that in turn is giving Doc Rivers the confidence to start him over another capable backup in Delonte West, who is still battling back problems amongst other well documented issues. So why not let Nate run with the starters now with Rondo banged up if he’s doing the job well?
3) Improved depth at the point guard spot
In past years, an injury to Rondo would be a certified disaster, forcing the team to go with a skilled, but flawed player like Eddie House to fill the role. This year, not only do you have Nate Robinson, but West and a green Avery Bradley to go along with them.
That’s the deepest the team has been at the position in years and although Bradley and West are still a bit banged up, the team can go into a game knowing they have three players capable of playing the point, even without Rondo. That’s a luxury they haven’t had in years.
And with Rajon being overextended minutes wise through his first ten games, averaging 39.6/minutes a contest (3rd highest in the league) thanks to Delonte’s suspension, now is the time for him to get refreshed while the team has the chance to give him the rest.
4) A Chance To See How Nate Runs With The Starters
I say this, mostly because this is a situation Doc probably rarely gets to see, at least in game-time situations. You have to admit though, in these past two games, Nate adds an impressive dynamic to that starting lineup. As a 3rd guy capable of scoring anywhere on the floor, the team offensively looked unstoppable at points with Nate both distributing and hitting his open jumpers all over the floor.
It’s a unit that Doc probably didn’t think much about using, but it’s nice to give it a few runs now in the early going, so the team can have it in it’s back pocket when it counts.
Put all of this together, with an upcoming weak schedule (New Jersey, Toronto, @ Cleveland in next week) and count me amongst those who are looking to see the team’s All-Star point guard to get an extended holiday break over the next week.
I know this column could be very well a moot point come 7:30 tonight, but my gut says the team will be cautious with Rondo for all of the reasons listed above. The guy is not going to sit out on his own later in the year, so why not do it now and nip any lingering injury problems in the bud?