Breaking Down Potential Ripple Effects of Rajon Rondo's Injury
No matter how you look at it, Boston just isn't going to be the same—ever.
This season has already been one plagued by controversy and ambiguity, and Rondo's absence is only going to perpetuate such realities.
Without him, the Celtics are going to be forced to take a long, hard look at their organization and its intrinsic value. Though much will remain unchanged for the time being, save for the team's method of attack, there are going to be a number of ripple effects that Boston simply cannot stop.
We're talking franchise-altering effects, the kind that will stick with the Celtics long after this season.
What types of changes are we to look out for, and how will they impact this Boston team moving forward?
Life without Rondo isn't going to be easy, so you can bet the Celtics are going to explore any and all avenues in an attempt to cope with the task at hand.
Celtics Ride Out the Rondo-less Wave
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One potential ripple effect (or lack thereof) of Rondo's absence is Boston opting to do, well, nothing.
Per Mark Murphy of BostonHerald.com, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is in no hurry to make a move or blow up the roster:
Right now I'm looking to give the guys we have a chance to play. Then we'll see what happens in the next few weeks.
Boston opted against making any moves last season and could do the same this year, even without Rondo.
If the Celtics truly believe this team has what it takes to give it another go, they might take the lower-level playoff seed or lottery berth they're destined for this season and hope they can pull it together next year.
But while that's a possibility, I think Boston has reached the point where something needs to change.
Sayonara Paul Pierce
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As reported by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Rondo's injury may increase the likelihood that the Celtics deal Paul Pierce before the trade deadline.
A bit premature, but rival execs speculating Rondo injury will compel Boston to look seriously at moving Paul Pierce before deadline.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) January 27, 2013
Though such rumblings are a bit premature, Marc Stein of ESPN.com noted that Boston was open to moving Pierce prior to Rondo's injury. With the point man now on the pine, Ainge has more than a few reasons to move Pierce in favor of a younger talent.
Shipping out a career-long Celtic will undoubtedly be difficult, but at 35 and with just $4 million of his $15.5 million salary guaranteed next season, Pierce is a valuable trade chip.
As Stein notes, much of the trade talks centered on moving Pierce to the Memphis Grizzlies in favor of Rudy Gay or participating in a three-team deal that lands Boston Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Again, all talks are still at the preliminary stage, but with the Celtics out of contention as is, and the need for athletic pieces to run with Rondo next season more pressing than ever, Pierce could prove to be collateral damage.
Also, moving Pierce may allow the Celtics to acquire a piece, like Gay or Gasol, who would keep them more than relevant through next season. Ainge has done everything possible to avoid a full-fledged rebuild thus far, and trading Pierce could serve as yet another act of aversion.
Either way, with Rondo out for the season, Pierce's stay in Boston could realistically be coming to a close.
Boston Blows Everything Up
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I'm not just talking about the Celtics dealing Pierce, but every contract and player they deem expendable.
Despite a disappointing performance thus far, Boston's faith in Jeff Green hasn't wavered much. Other players like Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass, though, may not figure into the Celtics' future as heavily. Given they are all on longer-term deals, the Celtics could move any or all of them along with Pierce in favor of a salary dump.
Creating future cap space would allow the Celtics to become major players during the free-agent frenzy of 2014, and thus allow them to assemble a fresh batch of athletic prospects to complement Rondo.
To that end, if Boston opts to dismantle everything, don't expect them to be focused on snagging impact stars like Gay or Gasol. Instead, look for them to stockpile prospects and expiring contracts.
Blowing the roster up won't have anything to do with today; it will have everything to do with tomorrow.
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Toeing along the lines of carving up the roster, Rondo's absence could cause the Celtics to embrace the non-art of tanking.
Whether that entails trading everyone (save for Kevin Garnett and Rondo) or simply letting most or all of this roster play itself into the league's basement is irrelevant. All that matters is that in Rondo's absence, Boston now has the option of stacking the latter half of the season with losses in pursuit of the highest possible lottery selection.
Staring down the barrel of a thin draft class (2011 thin) and with a fierce coach like Doc Rivers at the helm, this is one ripple effect I doubt Boston embraces.
Still, without Rondo, anything is possible.
Kevin Garnett's Departure from the Celtics...and the Game
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Notice how I left Garnett off the list of players who could be shipped out? I did that on purpose.
Garnett is one of four players (Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant) with a no-trade clause in his contract. Short of teaming up with LeBron James on the Minnesota Timberwolves (kidding) I don't see him waiving it for any team.
Remember, Garnett embodies loyalty, and I don't see him wanting to suit up for a franchise with whom he didn't win a championship. At 36, if the Celtics begin to rebuild or show any inkling to move him, I'd believe he would retire before waiving his no-trade clause.
That said, Garnett doesn't sound like a veteran planning to hang up his laces anytime soon.
Per Mark Murphy, he reportedly urged Rondo to take his time during the healing process:
“The first thing I told him was, do not play Superman,” Garnett said after yesterday’s 100-98 double-overtime win over Miami. “Take care of yourself. I know you think you’re young, but you’re not that young. He’s old in a young body, if you will. But take it seriously. Go get second opinions. Live right.”
Garnett could obviously be looking out for Rondo's well-being (and he is), but that doesn't read like a man preparing to do anything but hold down the fort in Rajon's stead.
It is a long season, however, and if the Celtics take a turn for the worst, or rather, take a turn toward a rebuild, Garnett's stance could change.
Boston Searches for a Temporary Fix
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There is a very real chance that Boston attempts to simply deepen the talent pool it already has, without breaking up its core.
Ainge did that over the offseason, and I wouldn't put it past him to do it again. He plugged existing holes the Celtics had over the summer in hopes of preserving their contender status and may opt to follow a similar blueprint here by acquiring another point guard.
Stein reports that with the Toronto Raptors willing to part with Kyle Lowry, the Celtics could decide to pursue him. He's an above-average floor general with the ability to play off the ball once Rondo returns next season.
Sense I get is it's far likelier Celts pursue Kyle Lowry and his cap-friendly contract. But do Celts have assets to land Raps PG? We'll see— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
Toronto is unlikely to give him up for nothing, but if Ainge can work more of his Courtney Lee-esque magic, the Celtics would have a temporary fix to man the point, while at the same time have built some lasting depth.
Rondo Proves to Be the Odd Man Out
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Some won't see this coming, but it is a possibility.
Rondo is considered indispensable in many circles, yet the Celtics were open to dealing him only last season.
What will happen to the Celtics during Rondo's absence?
Should Boston prove to be better off without him or find a point guard better suited for the half-court game (Lowry?), it could look to move him upon his return and begin to move on from his reign even before then.
Though I understand any skepticism towards this theory, bear in mind that Rondo isn't the best of fits for this Celtics team. He prefers to run, but the Celtics don't run, nor do they have the personnel necessary to run. And that's not mentioning the fact that Boston is actually scoring more points per 100 possessions with him on the bench.
As previously mentioned, the Celtics could tear apart their roster and build from scratch around Rondo. That said, it may prove easier to just build around what they have and play to their current strengths.
If Boston opts to stand pat or find a temporary replacement for the floor general, one who actually fares better, then this transient change could prove to be a permanent one.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
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