The Boston Celtics right now are like a ship without a sail. They are lost and not sure where they are going.
While many argue that the Celtics should call it quits this season and tank their way into a 2014 first-round lottery pick, this seems unlikely for two reasons.
First off, we are talking about a storied franchise with 17 NBA championships. It’s hard to believe that a team with this type of legacy is going to compete for last place.
Second, the Celtics still have a considerable amount of talent left on the squad. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and rookie Kelly Olynyk all have the chance to prove themselves this season.
Not to mention, they still have four-time NBA All-star Rajon Rondo.
So instead of abandoning ship, the Celtics need Rondo to take command of the wheel and guide the team back to its winning ways.
However, in order to do that, the 27-year-old point guard will need to be healthy again. Rondo suffered an ACL injury to his knee last season and is still recovering from the subsequent surgery with no clear timetable set for his return.
When Rondo is healthy, he is arguably one of the best, if not the best, point guards in the NBA.
Before you flip a switch on me, let’s take a look at some of the numbers. Last season he was leading the NBA in assists at the time of his injury, averaging 11.8 per game. No other player in the league averaged double-digits in assists, yet Rondo managed to go 36 straight games with 10 assists or more.
There's just no arguing that Rondo is the best passer in the game.
While the book on defending him had always been to play off and invite him to take perimeter shots, Rondo last season began to command more respect from defenders. Rondo averaged 13.7 points per game and shot over 48.4 percent from the floor, the fourth-highest shooting percentage among NBA point guards.
This video does a nice job showing how much his shooting form improved in the 2012-13 season.
Expect Rondo’s numbers to come up this season, as he takes on more scoring responsibility due to the departure of Pierce and Garnett. In addition, according to reports, Rondo has been improving his jump shot on his road to recovery, which will undoubtedly elevate his overall game.
Another reason the Celtics need Rondo to be healthy this season is his leadership—both on and off the court.
While new head coach Brad Stevens is a knowledgeable basketball man and right now looks like a good fit for Boston, it still will be his first year coaching in the NBA. Rondo will need to take the pressure off Stevens and be the rookie coach's extension on the floor.
The rebuilding Celtics have a lot of young talented players. With a championship under his belt and plenty of playoff experience, Rondo will have to be to his teammates what Kevin Garnett was to him over the last few seasons: a big brother.
Rondo learned a lot from Garnett and is known to frequently call his teammates, arrange team dinners and make the new players feel welcomed.
This type of leadership, combined with his ability to command the floor, will be crucial for Boston next season.
In previous seasons, Rondo took a backseat to Doc Rivers and the "Big Three," and his sometimes overzealous nature inspired him to butt heads a few times, even with personalities that had more experience and authority, such as Rivers and Ray Allen.
However, now that Rivers and the "Big Three" are out of the picture, Rondo will be given free rein over the team. If Rondo can return healthy this year, it will be quite interesting to see how far he can take the Celtics.