Rondo's Season Ends While C's Down Heat

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were dealt a haymaker Sunday afternoon when they learned that their All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

News of Rondo’s injury was filtered out to reporters during the third quarter of Boston’s 100-98 victory over the Miami Heat. Rumors had been circulating for hours, but confirmation of the news quickly altered the direction of Boston’s season.

“Obviously that’s a blow,” said Doc Rivers. “It’s a huge blow for us.“

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers learned of Rajon Rondo's fate during halftime of Sunday's game, but he kept the news from his players and continued to coach.
Jared Wickerham/NBAE/Getty Images

It is believed that Rondo suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of Friday night’s double overtime loss to the Hawks in Atlanta. Somehow, the point guard battled through the pain and played the entirety of the two overtime sessions, logging two points, two rebounds and two assists during that time.

Rondo returned to Boston with the team believing that he had simply tweaked his hamstring. He participated in the team’s walk-through Sunday morning and warmed up on the court ahead of Sunday’s game. He wasn’t scratched from the lineup until moments before the Celtics took the court to face off against the Heat.

“I was going in to talk to the team with 20 – I think it was 24 minutes (left until tip-off),” Rivers explained. “Rondo was still in the lineup and Dr. (Brian) McKeon grabbed me and said, ‘He’s out.’ And I was like, ‘He went through our walk-through.’ And then he said, ‘No, he’s out.’”

Following that conversation, Rondo returned to the locker room and changed back into his street clothes. He departed TD Garden and went to New England Baptist Hospital to undergo an MRI.

As Rondo left the arena, his team went onto the court to take on the defending champions. They had absolutely no idea what was going on behind the scenes while they were putting forth a phenomenal winning effort against the Heat. As they saw it, they were being forced to play a single game without their best player.

While the Celtics played with that mindset, their coach was coaching from a different place. Dr. McKeon gave Rivers an indication as to where this was going prior to the game. At halftime, more concrete information was relayed to the coach. Despite the fact that the MRI results had not yet been examined by McKeon, halftime is when the doctor told Rivers of Rondo’s fate.

An interesting dynamic began to develop at that moment. McKeon and Rivers knew what the MRI results would yield, yet because they didn’t have those results in hand, they did not share the information with anyone. Not even Rondo. With that in the back of his mind, Rivers continued to coach his team as expected while everyone else was kept in the dark.

In hindsight, that seems to have been a great decision. The Celtics played great basketball from start to finish and overcame the East’s best team to snap a six-game losing streak. To those watching, it looked like the Celtics were playing inspired basketball for their injured star. In reality, they were just playing their tails off while being clueless to the developing situation.

Boston wound up winning the emotional contest and headed off of the floor in celebratory fashion. It truly felt as if the Celtics had won a critical playoff game in TD Garden. The celebration spilled over into the locker room, where the players continued to savor the moment.

Then time froze when Rivers walked into the room and delivered the news.

“I just walked in and told them,” said Rivers. “I don’t know what else you can do. Guys were celebrating and then it just...”

Stopped.

Jubilation disappeared instantly as the team collectively absorbed a heavyweight hook that silenced the room.

“It was good,” Rivers said of the mood in the locker room, “and then it went down.”

“It kind of like brought a dark cloud in this room when you heard the news,” explained Paul Pierce.

Courtney Lee, who replaced Rondo in the starting lineup, summed that moment up in just a few words: “It was emotional. It was emotional here.”

It was a somber ending to what was otherwise an incredible day for the Boston Celtics. Sunday’s victory was impressive, but Rondo’s injury is heart wrenching. He will undergo surgery in the near future and the team will play the remainder of the 2012-13 season without him.

Now the Celtics will call on other players like Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to help step into the enormous sneakers that Rondo will no longer wear onto the court this season. They did it Sunday afternoon, and they’ll need to do it time and time again if the Celtics are going accomplish their long-term goals.

Rivers, for one, believes that will happen. He may not have Rondo in the fold any longer, but he knows that this Celtics team is still deep with talent.

“Well you can write the obituary. I’m not,” said the defiant Rivers. “In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”

A haymaker wrote Rondo off as dead for the remainder of this season, but the Celtics are still alive and ticking. If all goes as planned, Boston’s all-world point guard will be back for the beginning of next season. Until then, the Celtics will continue to fight and throw some punches of their own.