Can This Boston Celtics Team Be Doc Rivers' Greatest Coaching Job Yet?

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 27: Head coach Doc Rivers argues a call against the Miami Heat during the game on January 27, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Opportunity isn't just knocking, it's banging on Doc Rivers' door.

With Rajon Rondo done for the season, the panic button has been slammed in Boston—by everyone but the Celtics themselves.

Most see Rondo's absence as the beginning of the end for the contending Boston Celtics. They see it as the driving force behind Danny Ainge blowing this convocation to hell and starting from scratch.

Rivers, though, sees something else.

On a day when Boston both defeated the Miami Heat and lost Rondo for the year, an emotional Rivers told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that he refused count his team out:

"We aren't going anywhere," Rivers told Yahoo! Sports outside his office. "I don't get that thinking. You couldn't get what you wanted [in deals]. I still like our team. We're going to figure it out."

Emotionally committed though Rivers may be, this "never say die" mantra he is assuming isn't a facade. He believes this team can win with out Rondo; he believes in the art of resilience. 

And perhaps it's time the rest of us did, too.

Neither Rivers nor myself can paint a picture of a Rondo-less Celtics team that will contend in his absence. It just isn't feasible. Not in an Eastern Conference boasting the likes of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks.

But is this to say that Boston is out of the playoff race, that its destined to dwell within the NBA's basement?

Dismantling the roster and accepting the former appears to be a logical solution. The Celtics should carve up the roster, get younger and prepare for next year and Rondo's return.

Except that's not necessarily an option.

As Wojnarowski writes, the Association is no longer a place where teams mortgage their future on aging veterans:

Part of Rivers' words were a natural defiance, a fight-or-flight response out of a most competitive basketball soul. Nevertheless, the financial reality of the NBA has changed the way franchises have to inspect the trading away of assets for futures. When the lottery balls don't deliver LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose, rebuilding can be a long, painful and expensive process.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both hold ample value on the trade market, but 1) the latter has a no-trade clause and 2) gone are the days when said talents would land the Celtics an array of prospects and a battery of draft picks.

From there, who do the Celtics trade? Avery Bradely? Jared Sullinger? The very youngsters they were hoping to construct the franchise around?

Get real.

Decimating the roster isn't an option for Boston. Not in a way that benefits the team long term. It isn't going to get cap relief, picks and prospects for what it can and is willing to offer. It just isn't happening.

And Rivers not only understands this, but he's prepared to embrace it. He threatened changes not too long ago, but did so with the hope of instilling change internally, not with the genuine intent to dismember the roster.

To that end, nothing has changed. Rivers isn't the type of coach to embrace tanking, nor is he one to allow his team to quit.

For what it's worth, the Celtics are 25-16 without Rondo since he became their starting point guard during the 2007-08 campaign. Boston is by far a different team, but the footprints of that resiliency remain.

Not only are the Celtics 3-3 without their point man this season, but they're scoring more points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. Though that far from renders Rondo expendable, it's something to build upon.

We've seen what the absence of stars has done to teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, but what about the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose? The Windy City arguably has more players in their prime, but the team's defensive blueprint is not different from the one Boston has written and will continue to write without Rondo. And like Tom Thibodeau for the Bulls, the Celtics have an unrelenting coach in Rivers.

Rondo's loss leave's a gaping hole in the backcourt, that much no one can deny. But finally, possessing an onslaught of half-court oriented veterans has the ability to pay off.

Do you think Pierce is going to let this team quit? Garnett? Jason Terry? Rivers himself?

Of course not.

We marveled at the Bulls' record of 27-18 sans Rose last season, their 27-17 display without him this year and we even reveled in the 8-5 showing the Celtics put forth without Rondo last season as well. That can happen again.

In Boston, Rivers is walking the sidelines of a team with its back up against the proverbial wall—just like last year. And look how that team responded. Granted, the Celtics did so with Rondo, but the fight-or-flight response is going to be same with or without him.

Barring a trade, Pierce isn't going to surrender or crumble under the weight of adversity; Garnett won't, either. Most importantly, River's won't even consider raising his white flag or allow anyone under his watch to raise it, either.

Instead, he'll march into the war that will be the rest of this season with his head held high, clad with a Celtics green flag. Knowing full well that the rest of the basketball sphere has killed his team, he will attempt to lead a Cinderella-esque charge. The same charge he has led before.

"You can write our obituary," Rivers (via Wojnarowski) said. "I won't."

Nor should we.

Not as long as Rivers is the one tasked with exalting this team. Not when he's prone to supplanting affliction instead of rosters.

Not when he will look at a Rondo-less Celtics team and see a blank canvas on which he will attempt to affix his greatest masterpiece. 


*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and unless otherwise noted.