Danny Ainge may be giving the players some time away from basketball, but we are calling every player on the roster into our Celtics Town offices for their exit interviews for the rest of this week. Here’s the seventh in the series: Rajon Rondo.
Obviously, there’s less to say to you than there is to some of your teammates. Your season was cruelly cut short by an ACL injury that will keep you out until training camp begins. The news slowly breaking on Twitter and Doris Burke’s hushed mid-game report on your injury was one of the ultimate sports gut-punch moments that I personally have ever experienced.
The strangest thing about your season was the way your absence forced both your fans and your detractors to confront uncomfortable truths about how they view you as a player. First, your fans: There was really no way to deny that the Celtics played better after you went down with your injury. After beating Miami, Boston went 14-6 in their next 20 games and pulled themselves back into the playoff race. The offense appeared to be tangibly improving as players did more than stand around while you dribbled around the perimeter, obviously annoyed that no one was getting open for you. It was a vicious cycle: Boston relied on your ball movement and distribution, but you relied on their cuts and off-ball movement for your strengths to be properly emphasized. And for all of his many strengths, Doc Rivers has never been particularly gifted as an offensive mastermind.
But when the Celtics reached the playoffs, Rajon, your absence could not POSSIBLY have been more pronounced. Boston struggled just to get the ball up the floor, and then when they did get the ball up the floor, they found entry passes to be nearly impossible, which severely limited an already-limited offense. Without your penetration, every shot was a jumper, and if the jumpers were off, the game was essentially decided. What’s more: Avery Bradley, stuck in one of the most difficult roles of his young career, found himself completely overwhelmed and out of position. The fact that Boston somehow managed to push the Knicks and make them sweat through six games was less of a testament to their ability as a unit and more of a testament to their dogged, undead determination. They missed you desperately, and ultimately, without your talents and contributions, they fell to a better team.
There’s little else to say about your season, so I won’t drag this out; you can go back to playing Connect-4 or whatever it is you do during the offseason. We missed you, and we are all eagerly awaiting your return. Whatever the Celtics look like when you come back, they will benefit considerably from your presence.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.