Finishing the year without one of the best point guards in the NBA is surely unimaginable as it is unexpected.
With no communication of an injury to the public before Sunday morning, Rondo was slated to start in the highly anticipated, nationally-televised showdown against Miami. Yet hours before tipoff, Coach Doc Rivers was pulled aside by team doctors that told him his star point guard would have to undergo MRI scans at a nearby hospital, and therefore unable to play.
What once was classified a hyperextended knee took a devastatingly turn for the worse for Celtics nation, as news broke of a torn ACL while all eyes were still on the rivalry game. It was quite the bittersweet finish for the Celtics, as they knocked off their fierce rivals but gradually realized the horror that occurred in the last hours.
The problems that immediately jump out as a result of this injury concern the "quarterback role"—for a team that relied so heavily on its star player, is there any way Rondo's impact can be replaced through one guy? As ACL injuries naturally take an extensive time period to recover from, it would be prudent for the Celtics to acquire a point guard prior to the February trade deadline, and in doing so possibly filling a role leading into next year.
Could this just be another event that begs the question, as does every year around the trade deadline, whether it is time to split the core of this team? Ray Allen left for South Beach in the summer, constituting a third of the original Big Three, but watching a Celtics team without all-too-familiar faces such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce seems completely inconceivable. For a team that has won 11 playoff series since their "renaissance" 5 years ago, and have still retained and generated valuable and cohesive assets, it might just be too early to turn to the popular phrase, "starting from scratch".
For a rather conservative general manager in Danny Ainge (not just in sports by the way), this will presumptively be the course of action he'll take. Perhaps he will choose to go after a desperately needed scorer, but in order to fill the void at the point guard spot left by Rondo, a backcourt by committee seems the most plausible scenario. Though a combination of Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Leandro Barbosa certainly does not sound too appealing, an addition of Paul Pierce at "point-forward" would certainly aid ball control and movement on the offensive side. And Doc Rivers, without question, figures to play a more prominent role in play-calling on offense, as his only certified point guard on the roster is out for the year.
And remember, the Celtics still have a firm grasp on the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference (3 games), and less than two weeks ago sat at a record of 20-17. So framing the Celtics' situation at this point in the season as an utter calamity seems like an exaggeration, as the fanbase that regards it holds all their sports allegiances on par with religion—and in the case with Rondo's injury, would nearly view it as a death in the family.
But it would simply not feel right to watch Garnett and Pierce lead their Celtics team into a tailspin, as their retirement only draws closer—nor does it seem possible. As one learns with all sports in this region, and as the popular proverb imprinted on cross-sport flags says: "Believe in Boston".