“No, please. Don’t tell me that. Oh, that’s awful. Now listen, we have a bad history, but I never wish that on anyone.” – Dwyane Wade to Jackie McMullan
It was one of those games you figured Boston would win, despite everything. Despite their six-game losing streak. Despite Paul Pierce in the midst of a slump so ugly the only thing colder was the temperature outside the TD Garden. Despite Ray Allen’s return. Despite LeBron James putting up video game-like numbers. Sunday nearly harbored the feeling a heavyweight fighter throwing one last punch in one last fight with no clue what the future held.
Rajon Rondo’s ACL tear is impactful in more ways than I truly care to list. Here are the important ones:
Boston Moving Forward
The Celtics will always come to play Miami. That much is a given, but now the questions looms: where does Beantown go from here? More than a triple double waiting to happen, Rondo was everything that made Boston go. He directed the offense. He started fast breaks, and often times finished them. He put teammates in places they needed to be. Depending on what day of the week it is, Rondo could easily pass as the best quarterback in the region. Doc Rivers implies Boston isn’t dead, and something I’ve come to despise/respect about the Celtics over the years is they never roll over and wave the proverbial white flag. So they’ve at least earned that respect from me. One thing’s for sure though. Boston’s slim championship window never returned on the flight home from Atlanta.
Maybe this isn’t a real reason, but even with a torn ACL, Rondo damn near tried to play through it on Sunday. Hell, on the play which allegedly ended his 2012-13 season, he didn’t even writhe in pain. He just shook it off and played 12 more minutes with his knee ligaments resembling sawdust. I’m now fully convinced Rajon was one of those kids who could hold his hand over a flame and not move.
A Growing Trend?
In less than 12 months, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Lou Williams and now Rajon Rondo have all went down with season-ending, non-contact knee injuries. The scary thing is there’s nothing to prevent it either.
The All-Star Game
Just like that, my theory of the East’s starting five all secretly attempting to freeze each other out is dead. Kyrie Irving likely moves into Rondo’s starting slot with Brook Lopez being used to fill the vacancy. Life moves on, and indeed good news for both, but it’s hard to celebrate the nods given the circumstances involved. What sucks about all this is I was really hoping Rondo would have an assist where he butts the ball off his head.
Boston Moving Forward (Part Two)
Who fills the void left by Rondo? Can Paul Pierce legitimately play point forward? Does Courtney Lee step up? Does Boston bring Delonte West back? How serious are these Kyle Lowry speculations? Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, does Danny Ainge just take a stick of C4 to the team and start the rebuilding process on the fly? In which case, did we just witness the end of an era before our very eyes?
The bottom line is so. Seeing a team you’re not a fan of struggle is great. Awesome, even. Especially when it benefits your interest. That’s the beauty of the marriage between sports and fan hood. Someone wins and someone loses. Nevertheless, no one profits with injuries. Not the franchise, the Association or fans.
Celtics fans now assume the familiar seat and agonizing process occupied by Bulls fans as they await the impending return of their own all-world point guard. People who hate the Celtics – like myself – now see a rivalry without one of its key components. Imagine Duke/UNC when Coach K retires. Imagine Braves/Mets this year without Chipper Jones. Imagine Ravens/Steelers next year sans Ray Lewis. It’s something like that. Meanwhile, the NBA loses an enigmatic, ultra competitive and exhilarating talent.
Following Kobe Bryant, Kendrick Perkins and LeBron, here’s to Rondo (and Lou Williams) making a speedy, but albeit lengthy recovery. Now Celtics fans are left to wonder, even when Rondo does return next year, is it to a team taking one last stab at playing in June? Or will have Ainge already tossed Boston’s name in the hat for the unofficial chase for Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins?