Boston Celtics Would Be Crazy To Rush Rajon Rondo Back from Injury

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 25:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics waits for an inbounds pass against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 25, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In case you're wondering why the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo has yet to undergo surgery on his torn ACL in his right knee, there may be a frightening reason behind the delay.

According to A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast SportsNet, Rondo's agent Bill Duffy said the point guard suffered only a partial tear in the ligament. What this means in terms of his potential return remains unclear, but Duffy is "very optimistic" that Rondo could return to action far sooner than anticipated.

There's an indecipherable vagueness surrounding the actual meaning of this development, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said a partial tear would not change the fact that Rondo is out for the season (via Comcast SportsNet's Kyle Draper).

But if Duffy did enough to convince Blakely that this is worthy of a story, then what kind of things could he be planting in Rondo's ear?

Surely the point guard has heard the murmurings that Boston may actually be a stronger team without him. And he can't be blind to the fact that the team's six-game winning streak commenced directly after his departure.

Is that enough motivation for him to push his body beyond its capabilities in a rushed rehab process? Without a Being John Malkovich-type portal inside Rondo's mind, there's no way to make even an uneducated guess as to his current mental state.

But the omnipresent Duffy has financial reasons to return his client to action in the quickest way possible, prove that this club is truly better off with him on the floor and limit any potential damage to Rondo's value. You know, before the Celtics do something crazy like plow through the Eastern Conference with players like Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa orchestrating the offense.

While Duffy's motivations are clear, what could the Celtics possibly gain by racing Rondo back to action?

Their season outlook has never shined brighter than it is now. The Celtics aren't just playing winning basketball of late, they're winning by playing Celtics basketball. That in-your-face, relentless, grind-it-out Doc Rivers basketball.

They've held five of their last six opponents below the century mark, including limiting the defending champion Miami Heat to just 98 points during Boston's double-overtime victory on Jan. 27. During that same stretch, they've allowed fewer opponents to shoot above 42 percent (one, the Los Angeles Clippers), than they've kept under 40 percent (two, the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings).

Offensively, they've dissected defenses with the kind of team ball movement that Rivers had always envisioned for this club.

They lost the league leader in assists (Rondo had 11.1 per game before going down) and have since responded with 24.2 assists collectively in their past six games. If that figure were stretched out over the entire season, it would be the second-highest average in the league, trailing only the San Antonio Spurs (25.4 assists per game). 

While the Spurs have tallied those gaudy assist totals in the NBA's fourth-most potent offense (104.1 points per game), the Celtics have done so while scoring just 102.8 points per game. Take the Celtics' most recent win, a 116-95 lashing of the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 7, out of the equation (along with their 25 assists in that game) and they've registered 24.0 assists per game while scoring just 100.2 points per game.

But beyond their current success, there's the risk of hindering any future success by returning Rondo to action before he's ready.

Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio waited over nine months before returning from his own ACL tear, and that still doesn't look like it was long enough. He's been hampered by overcompensating for the injury, and frankly he has looked atrocious when he's taken the floor (6.1 points per game, 31.1 field-goal percentage).

There's no guarantee that Rondo would suffer a similar fate. But why even risk it? He's perhaps the most uniquely talented player at the position, unwavering in his approach to look for his teammates, crash the glass or bother opponents with his length.

Should the Celtics decide they are indeed better off without Rondo, they could bolster their roster by dangling the point guard for an upgrade to the interior. There's no sense in diminishing his trade value by rushing a hobbled Rondo back to action.

The Celtics have changed their immediate future without Rondo.

They'd be best to protect their long-term future in the same manner.