Today I begin my breakdown of the Boston Celtics’ 2013-2014 NBA season, beginning with the player who should have the biggest impact on the team’s current quest to build a team that will bring championship banner number 18 to the rafter of TD Garden.
When Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose returned to the NBA in 2013-2014 after missing over an entire season’s worth of games due to an ACL tear, only to tear his MCL ten games into his comeback season and be forced to miss yet another season of hoops, I’m sure many Boston Celtics fans went from thinking, “Get Rondo back in the lineup so see if we can make a playoff run!” to “Maybe a top-five lottery pick ain’t so bad after all.” Let’s remember, many of us Celtics fans have already lived through the tragedies of Len Bias, Reggie Lewis, and Paul Pierce being traded. I don’t think our hearts couldn’t survive seeing Rondo being lost to us due to another injury.
Fortunately, the Boston Celtics never had a meatball’s chance in a Golden Corral of making the playoffs, so Rajon Rondo did not have the same burden placed on his shoulders that Rose was when he started this campaign with the Bulls. Right from the start, Rondo’s minutes were limited, and he was held out of the second of back-to-back games, which tends to prove to me that Danny Ainge seriously intends to rebuild around his All-Star point guard, rather than trade him, which was the popular opinion around the Internet and Twitterverse.
So how did Rondo do during his comeback tour? Solid, but not spectacular by the standards he himself has established. Across the board, Rondo’s numbers were down – with the exception of his three-point shooting percentage, which was the second highest of his career at .289, and rebounds per game, which was a career-best 5.9 per 36 minutes of play. (His overall rebounding average of 5.5 per game was his second-best.) Of course, if you watched him play you don’t need to check his stats to know that Rondo did not quite resemble the electrifying point guard who led the Boston Celtics to two trips to the NBA Finals. Rondo himself expressed a bit of dismay over how long it was taking him to regain his touch on his trademark floater, and his efficiency on offense was dismal at times. His effective field goal percentage of .440 was the worst of his career since his rookie season, and his overall field goal percentage of .403 was the worst in his career, period.
The flip side of this argument, of course, is to ask, “Well, what the hell did you expect? This wasn’t a minor injury the man was returning from – it was an ACL tear, for goodness sakes! Shouldn’t we be happy his numbers were even CLOSE to his career averages?” To which I say: yes. And calm down. Only a fool would look at Rondo’s level of play since returning from injury and be disappointed. Despite some nights on which he looked as rusty as the Tin Man, Rondo also finished the season with two triple-doubles, and was literally one field ago away from recording a third. He made it possible for the Celtics to hang tight with some teams who eventually went on to make the playoffs – a five-point loss to Chicago on March 30, a two-point loss to the Raptors on March 28, even a five-point win against Miami on March 19 – teams that probably should have mopped the floor with the patchwork roster that Boston employed. To say he has come close to returning to form faster than expected would be a fair assessment; none of us should have expected Rondo to look as good as he did at times this season, and we should all be excited by the thought of watching him play a full 82-games next season (knock on wood).
Best of all, at least in my eyes, is Rondo’s apparent willingness to be the player the Boston Celtics rebuild around, in order to chase that elusive 18th banner. When he publicly announced that he hopes to be a part of the decision-making process that goes into such a process, I literally high-fived myself. (That is a total lie.) If the Boston Celtics truly do want to rebuild around their mercurial point guard, his input should be considered from time to time, and the fact that Rondo is open about wanting to be involved is really the best thing to come out of his season. Add it all up, and you have a solid 2013-2014 season fro Rajon Rondo, with the promise of a stellar year to come.
Stay tuned as I continue to analyze the 2013-2014 seasons of the players on the Boston Celtics roster, and follow us @HoudiniCeltics for more of our thoughts and insight!