Just How Much Trouble Would the Boston Celtics Be in Without Rajon Rondo?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2012

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 14: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics limps after rolling his ankle on a play against the Utah Jazz during the game on November 14, 2012 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

Houston, the Celtics have a problem.

The Boston Celtics have been anything but dominant in the early goings of the NBA season, but after two consecutive wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls, the team's outlook changed for the better. 

That is until they tangoed with the Utah Jazz.

It was then that star point guard Rajon Rondo was forced to leave the game in the middle of the third quarter with what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers later revealed was a sprained ankle.

Doc on Rondo's ankle: "Not sure (on his status for tomorrow vs Brooklyn). With sprained ankles, tomorrow we'll know more."

— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 15, 2012

Which begs the question: How much trouble would Boston be in without its point guard?

Though the injury could have been much more severe, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com reports that Rondo is currently listed as day-to-day:

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sprained his right ankle in Wednesday's 98-93 win over the Utah Jazz and is day-to-day. He will be re-evaluated before Thursday night's game with the Brooklyn Nets.

Rondo landed awkwardly after a baseline drive with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. After missing a layup, he hopped all the way across the court to the front row of seats before limping back to the bench. He soon retreated to the locker room with Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte.

More often than not, day-to-day injuries are downplayed and the potential impact they could have on a team is overlooked. 

But not with the Celtics.

Rondo could wind up not missing a single game, or he could wind up missing several.

Ideally, Boston wouldn't want the point man to miss a single minute of action. But at the same time, that's why the team has to remain cautious, something Rivers did when he didn't re-insert Rondo in the game after he was cleared to play.

The Celtics' crafty floor general means everything to the well-being of this team.

He leads the league with 12.6 assists per game, is Boston's third-leading scorer at 14.3 points a night and his 51 percent shooting is second only to Chris Wilcox, a player that shoots less than twice per contest.

Simply put, Rondo's production is something that the Celtics cannot replace. Not now, not ever. 

But could they persevere through his absence? Could they build upon their current three-game winning streak and navigate the treacherous waters of the Association without their dominant leader?

With names like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry on the docket, you wouldn't be crazy to say yes. But you would be wrong.

Rondo isn't just leading the Celtics statistically. He has been their most consistent source of offensive and defensive output, period. 

Boston is averaging a league-best 24.9 assists per bout—more than half of which are attributed to Rondo's play-stylings. He's also the team's third-leading rebounder and best perimeter defender.

Most importantly, though, he's the heart of the Celtics' offense. 

Much is made of his assists, but not enough is made of how much better he makes those around him. His dribble penetration has created enough easy scoring opportunities to allow Garnett and Pierce to age gracefully. 

His court vision is a huge reason why Terry is on pace to shoot a career-best 49.7 percent from floor. 

And, most notably, he was the one playing more than 40 minutes per game heading into last night. Rondo has given this team not only his skills and leadership, but his body as well.

Bear in mind also that this isn't the same team who went a mediocre 8-5 in his absence last year.

Are the Celtics deeper? Yes, but they're just as old and even more dependent upon Rondo.

Even with Rondo, Boston is being outscored by opponents by almost one point per night. With him, the Celtics are barely keeping they're head above water. I mean, he dished out 20 assists against the Philadelphia 76ers and they still lost.

How are they supposed to succeed without him?

Sure, they pulled out the victory against the Jazz, but just barely. Boston was also helped along by a Jazz team who shot an uncharacteristically low 40.1 percent from the field. They also had to overcome a minus-15 deficit on the glass to do so.

Is that resiliency at its finest? Of course, but the ending won't be the same every night. Not without Rondo.

The Celtics are already facing a nightly deficit of six on the boards, already giving up over 98 points per game but their ball movement—Rondo's ball movement, specifically—has allowed them to win games.

Do we honestly believe they stay atop the league in dimes per contest without him? Not at all.

Which is why—if Rondo is forced to miss any kind of time—the Celtics are in serious trouble. They will be able to scrape together a few wins, but the numbers aren't skewed in their favor with him—they are winning in spite of them.

Without him, staying above .500 would be borderline impossible. 

"That happens throughout the course of the season, guys get hurt, other guys are going to step up," Pierce said after the game. "That's why we brought in the depth that we have this year, and it showed tonight."

Unfortunately for the Celtics, without Rondo, it's not going to show to the point where it's enough to win consistently.