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3-on-3: Post Traumatic Rondo Deliberations

 

Last night, we convened an emergency 3-on-3 panel to deal with the fallout from Rajon Rondo’s injury. We’ll be dealing with all of this stuff in more detail in the next few days, along with, conservatively, a billion trade rumors, but here are our immediate reactions to the end of Rondo’s season and what it means for the Celtics.

1. What’s your reaction to Rondo’s injury?

Brendan Jackson: It’s almost unbelievable. Typically, when these injuries happen, you see Tony Allen slap the floor in pain or Derrick Rose’s mental anguish as the reality of the situation sets in. We don’t think of a guy who guts out the rest of a fourth quarter, two overtimes, and the next game’s shoot-around before finally submitting to an MRI. While Rondo’s injury drives the very last nail in the coffin of the Celtics season – and likely the Big Three era – Rondo gets the minuscule consolation prize of solidifying his position as the toughest guy in the NBA.

Ryan DeGama: Sometimes Rondo gets playful or cocky with the media but he’s always seemed like a private, sensitive guy. So, watching him come out for the second overtime Sunday against Miami and walking back through the tunnel in the full gaze of the camera, I felt similar to the way I did watching Doc Rivers give his press conference after losing game 7 of the 2010 Finals: it was such a painful moment it was almost inappropriate for pubic scrutiny. It’s hard to imagine how Rondo’s feeling today but it’s easy to guess at the questions that will be lingering in his head. Is he going to be the same player when he returns? Will he ever play with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett again? I feel terrible for him.

Brian Robb: Sheer shock to be honest, based on the circumstances. The point guard has his flaws but toughness is certainly not one of them after he managed to play 12 minutes on a torn ACL and not complain about it until the next game. After getting past that, I’m a bit mixed about the team’s fortunes with Rondo going down. When Rondo wants to be, he’s by far the team’s best player, but we haven’t seen enough of that this year. Instead, it’s been inconsistent play on both ends, and uninspired effort by the rest of the squad. That’s definitely not all on Rondo, but a fresh opportunity for the newcomers on this team, particularly in the backcourt, is probably a good thing in the short term. Playing the postseason without Rondo is another story.

2. How can Doc Rivers remake an offense that was highly dependent on Rondo?

Jackson: Motion, spacing and ball movement. It may seem obvious, but without their shot creator, the Celtics need to reshape their offense in a way that prevents it from being solely dependent on one player. Without Rondo, the parts will need to interchangeable to the point where it doesn’t matter if it’s Pierce passing to Jason Terry on a flare. Or Courtney Lee feeding Avery Bradley or Jeff Green on a curl. Or Pierce spotting up in the corner while Terry drives to the bucket. It’s not going to be easy, but there is hope that the sum total of all the parts will patchwork its way into something resembling what Rondo provided.

DeGama: By force-feeding Jason Collins in the post? Look, there’s no palatable answer to this one. Outside of Rondo, the Celtics have almost no shot creators and playoff-level defense will suffocate what’s left of the offense. I would like to see Boston with a score-first PG who gets to the free throw line. To that end, a multi-category threat like Kyle Lowry, who has fallen out of favor in Toronto despite a 21.32 PER, could be a short term answer. And keep this in mind: we’ll be watching Rondo play sometime before the calendar hits 2014. There’s no need to completely rebuild the offense unless you’re ready to cut bait on Rondo as a core member of the future Celtics. The C’s just need to muddle through.

Robb: Attack, attack, attack. We saw a healthy amount of it Sunday against the uber-athletic Heat as the C’s scored 48 points in the paint. The fact of the matter is even with Rondo, Doc’s offense has been broken for awhile now. Rondo wouldn’t attack consistently and he was setting up too many outside shots for a team unable to hit them. Getting back to basics will be crucial here as the two guards who are best with the ball in their hands (Terry, Leandro Barbosa) will now have the opportunity to create for 20+ minutes a night.

3. What should Danny Ainge do now?

Jackson: Despite Rondo’s season ending injury, whether or not the Celtics break up the band is still dependent on many things. Do Pierce and Garnett want to be traded to a legitimate contender? Is that contender willing to give up a combination of young players and draft picks for them as short term rentals? Would the Celtics get enough building blocks in return for trading the core of their franchise? These questions all hang in the delicate balance between stay-the-course and blow-it-up.

DeGama: Ainge will lie as necessary, but I think his post-game comments yesterday were honest. Whether he moves Pierce (or anyone else) will be dictated by the value proposition. In this sense, he’s like a point guard reacting to the defense. You have to work with what it gives you or you end up forcing something you don’t want. My perspective: the Celtics should consider themselves a storehouse of potential contributors to a title team. As the deadline approaches, a team may decide it’s a Pierce or Lee away from a title. If so, and the value is good, you make a move. If not, you hope the extended minutes your bench guys are about to see will jack up their value and you reset in the summer.

Robb: Danny Ainge will observe what this team does without Rondo and explore the trade market for Pierce and the rest of the roster (outside of KG). It’s important for Ainge to do his due diligence and as much as it pains me to say it, this team should deal Pierce if it gets a strong offer for him and they’re still floating around the .500 mark at the deadline. However, I don’t expect that strong offer to come and Ainge certainly shouldn’t move Pierce just for the sake of moving him and clearing cap room that could come next year with a buyout. Bringing in a point guard who doubles as a scorer (hello Kyle Lowry) and perhaps a rebounding big (Emeka Okafor?) could make this team, maybe not a contender, but a squad that can make some noise in the Eastern Conference. The question will be whether Ainge has enough to add these pieces, because you know he won’t be dealing assets like Bradley or Jared Sullinger.

  • elroz

    Well, it will be interesting to see this experiment. They HAVE 4 quality guards that can handle the ball for a moderate amount of time… all these guys can shoot and Terry-Barbosa are proven scorers.. maybe they'll be able to create a more fluid, less centered offense w/o Rondo?

    I want the Celtics to win a title…but I also want Pierce and KG to finish their careers in the Celtics uniform, their numbers retired (PP will have that anyhow…KG needs at least this season or another) … KG to reach 25,000 and PP to do the same … and KG get to 10th all time in rebounding, and then onward and so …

    look, at 20-23 they weren't that great anyhow …. if they get to 42-40 at the end of the season, are we to complain?

    You got 2013 pick, Bass, Wilcox, and one or two guards (Lee, Barbosa, Terry) you can deal to get
    1. a point guard if you are convinced you need one
    2. a big man

    you got 4-5 pieces you can deal for that … so decide.

    • Dmitry

      I also do think, this team might be better without Rondo, when hes on the floor, there are too much expectation for him, from players and coaches etc.

      Without Rondo, team realizes, they have to play gritty ball to win and no easy way out, it helps to focus. I don't know was it short term or long term feature, but I would like to know for sure!

      GO C's!

  • Phil725

    Interesting comments from Marc Stein on Twitter relating to the last question here; he basically said it was going to be a lot easier for Ainge to accept trading Rondo (pre-injury) than it would be Pierce. He went as far as saying that he's skeptical that Ainge is ready to trade a legend like PP.

    If Ainge is that gunshy on making a deal, it's very possible that we could have a quiet trade deadline. It's basically a Pierce deal or nothing significant at this point, right?

  • Switcharoo

    Trading Pierce at this point is a bad idea IMO. The Celtics are not going to get what they want/need from the trade and what’s left of the chemistry will go to hell in a handbag. So what would the point be? Just let the remainder of the core finish out as Celtics this season and work it over in the off season. Without Pierce this team will turn into a leaderless washout.

    • Vincent

      It all depends on what the Cs are offered. Who knows, we might get a pick or a young player?

  • NZNICK33

    Y’know, this could be the best thing to happen to the C’s.
    No more excuses. Everyone’s accountable.
    More size and defense in the backcourt.
    Better spacing on the floor. No more playing off our PG.
    I love Rondo but he was costing us games with his eccentric decision-making. Sure, on the flipside he bailed us out countless times, but taken as a whole, I think we still have a fighter’s chance.
    Go C’s!!!

  • CelticsBIG3

    The thing people forget about the business of basketball is that the fans foot the majority of the bills. Now obviously the arena won't be empty every night if Pierce gets traded, but the fan base is going to take a hit; if albeit a short term one. Another factor to consider is that LOTS of fans come to the Garden for the chance to see Rondo put on a spectacular show; thats not happening anytime soon. I don't know that Ainge makes these considerations, but I know that guys like Wyc Grousbeck who own the team and are huge Pierce fans do. The difference between the lousy Celtics teams of the 90s and 2000s and the one that will come with a blown up team are that in today's NBA fandom, there are LOTS of "bandwagon" fans, and they aren't going to stick around through a rebuilding year. So Ainge is in a terrible position here. I am NOT envious of him whatsoever.

  • skeeds

    I'm having a hard time accepting why Ainge should be more inclined to make a move now than before. Quite the contrary, I'd think. It's sad from a fan perspective, but losing Rondo pretty much makes it final that we're not aiming at a ring this year.
    So trading for "pieces" makes no sense whatsoever. I think Ainge should, and probably does, have only 2 goals approaching the deadline.
    1. Keep an eye out for a big name on the block. Rudy Gay, J.Smith, there's a couple of them supposedly available. The kind of guys worth giving up assets for.
    2. Weed out whatever isn't working in the locker room. Some guys are damaging the team, and should be gone by next season. If an opportunity arises to dump them now, do it. Instinctively I'd point at Bass and Terry, but it could be anyone, really.

    On a sidenote, I'd bet good money that PP ain't going nowhere, (unless he wants to). If Ainge looks to trade him somewhere he doesn't wanna go, he can even play the retirement card. He's alluded to this in the past.

  • CG12

    I'm going on record now – this team is going to play better with Rondo out. There has been plenty of talk here about how lousy Rondo's defense has been and how the offense has been running better without him. And that's what I saw yesterday. A team where each guy ferociously defends his own man, without the cheating and unnecessary switching and pointing at other guys to get his man that have characterized Rondo's defense more and more over time. A team where the ball is pretty much always pushed up the floor on offense. Not necessarily looking for fast breaks, but keeping the possibility open, as well as getting into the offense as soon as possible so as to have as much time as possible and to take advantage of the little cracks that are there before a defense has time to really settle in. If a guy is even one step out of defensive position, take advantage of it. The ball hops around the court. Guys move because there isn't one player dominating the ball and pounding the air out of it. When the ball is moving, spaces and angles open up, and that provides opportunities for the Lees, Terrys, Bradleys, Greens, and Pierces of the world. No more relying so heavily on dribble penetration.

    • tbunny

      The theory is plausible I agree. This team wasn't playing that well with Rondo. They need to start hitting 3s…

  • CG12

    And this is in no way Rondo hate or, really, in any way related to his injury. These are the same things I have seen this year, in any event. It wasn't a coincidence that the C's picked up the big Knicks win without Rondo. I have said for years that Rondo is a wonderful, talented, quirky player, but is really not a good fit for the C's. He should be playing somewhere out West where the offense runs wild and free and there is less of this dour East Coast defense stuff. The C's would be better off with a game manager / set up the offense / hit open shots first-team PG. In Pierce and KG they have two incredibly heady players who you can run offense through. Along with playing actual face-up defense, another thing Rondo has stopped doing over the years is move without the ball. Back when he didn't command the ball so much, they would work him on cuts like they do Avery now. No more, as you can't simultaneously dribble the ball and cut.

    • CG12

      For some reason I can't write more than 12 or so lines until it tells me I can't fit any more in one comment. I can be wordy, but the comment function seems to allow others to go for maybe as much as three times as much as it lets me put in one comment. I'm not sure if I am being punished for past wind bag-ness, or what. Anyone having the same issue?

      • The Cardinal

        I doubt if you're being intentionally cut off – your comments are always insightful and well thought out and I if anyone was being targeted, it might be someone who continually gripes in run on sentences and ALL CAPS, LOL

        I too believe the the remaining four guard combo will push the ball, pass the ball, press the ball better and create easier looks inside for our bigs because of each one's ability to both drive and knock down the 3-point shots (at least in theory). I really believe this 4 guard combo might be the best in the league (as was the 5 guard combo with Rondo).

        We also need more depth at the 3 because if Pierce or Green goes down, we're in deeper doo doo.
        I can see us acquiring both a defensive-minded 3 with some ability to knock down the 3 point shot as well as a big who can defend the pick and roll and block shots – even if one or both are D-Leaguers. I hope that Wilcox can fully recover and run the floor with Lee, Barbosa, et al, but given his history and the length of time it's taken him to make a cameo appearance, I'm starting to worry that he may not be healthy the remainder of the season.

    • hydrofluoric

      In the regular season I agree with you. Lee and Avery don't play lackadaisical D the way Rondo does, and plus Rondo is a bad fit with JET and Barbosa on the court. We all love the Lee-Bradley backcourt.

      But in the long term…

      1. Losing him for 38 games means Pierce and KG just get that much more tired by the time the playoffs come round.

      2. The man is a monster in the playoffs. He had like 3 or 4 triple-doubles in last year's playoffs alone and hung 44 points on Miami, plus iced Game 7 against Philly for us.

      It's gonna hurt and we're not going far in the postseason now that we've lost Rondo, but I'll still watch this team trek through. Unless they trade Pierce that is.

  • James

    For the time being, I'm guessing Bradley moves over to become the primary PG with Barbosa as backup, and Lee takes over starting SG duties. But with Lee and Terry underperforming, what are the possbilities that Ainge could deal for someone like JJ Redick. Celtics won't lose much defensively with Rondo out, but replacing his points could be a problem. Futhermore, we still haven't truly replaced Ray Allen. Is there way a deal could be done?

    • IBleedGreen

      Bradley is and will never be a point gurad. He cannot handle the ball with his heads up. I think Lee and Terry will split the point gurad role until a trade is made.

  • smalltownID

    Nice comments folks, I have actually enjoyed C-Hub this year. For all his gifts, I think C's are better without Rondo. The guys on the team can call Rondo the leader all they want but it just isn't adding up. I don't think that is one of his gifts. Maybe he will reinvent himself in that regard in the future. But I don't see him there now.

  • blake

    I wish Rondo a good recovery, but this is a blessing for the Celtics. The defense will improve significantly with Lee and Bradley on the perimeter where it starts, and the offense has been below-average with Rondo in the line-up. I think this change will also get Doc back in a comfort zone with a defense-first approach which is one of his strengths.

    All of this buzz from the national media now that the Celtics are doomed is over-blown. None of these writers watch the Celtics every game and they think Rondo is a player that he is not. He elevates his game in the national spotlight, but the fact is that his inconsistent efforts have so far led to an inconsistent season for the team.

  • Diderot

    Send Jeff Green and Bass to a team like the Wizards for Omeka and find a Pg like Calderon or Kyle Lowry.

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