For all those critics of Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics themselves have proved you wrong. The only problem, though, with that vindication is that the Celtics have had to fall 1-3 behind the New York Knicks in their first round playoff matchup to establish the point that Rondo was essential to their success in the postseason.
But before we get to analysing Rondo’s value for the Celtics, it is time to debate whether it is the end of an era at Boston. An era that began with Kevin Garnett arriving in Boston in 2007, the Celtics winning an NBA championship in 2008, losing the NBA Finals in 2010, losing the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals in seven games to the Miami Heat, following which Ray Allen left Boston to mark the beginning of an end.
You would have to say end because, statistically, this has been the Celtics’ poorest season since 2007 as shown in the table below:
|Season || W || L || Win% || Playoffs|
|2007-08 || 66|| 16|| 0.805 ||Won Finals|
|2008-09 || 62|| 20|| 0.756 ||Lost in conf. semis|
|2009-10 || 50|| 32 ||0.610|| Lost in Finals|
|2010-11 || 56|| 26|| 0.683 ||Lost in conf. semis|
|2011-12 || 39|| 27 ||0.591 ||Lost in conf. finals|
|2012-13 || 41|| 40 ||0.506 ||Down 1-3 in first round|
And since no team has in NBA history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, it might be safe to conclude that the 2013 Playoffs will also mark the Celtics’ most disappointing result in the last six years.
The signs were there from the beginning. Not just did the Celtics stumble their way out of the blocks in 2012-13, they were remarkably ordinary right through the entire season. Even with Rondo around, they managed to win only 18 of the 38 games they played before he went down with his torn ACL in late January 2013.
And while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce still have a bit left in the tank, they likely can no longer be looked upon as franchise players who can step up and put in spectacular performances on a nightly basis. In fact, in four games so far against the Knicks, Garnett has averaged his lowest PPG (11.3) compared to his 13 other appearances in the postseason while his field-goal shooting percentage (43.9) has been his lowest for the Celtics in the playoffs. Pierce, similarly, has struggled, shooting only 25 percent from 3-point territory and has turned the ball over 22 times, nine more than Carmelo Anthony who has the next highest turnovers by a player in this series.
The Celtics, therefore, must grapple with the issue of rebuilding, which is sure to hit them sooner rather than later. And the onus of that rebuilding rests with Celtics president Danny Ainge. In his recent Hang Time Blog, NBA.com’s, John Schuhmann, echoed this sentiment when he wrote, “So, Celtics president Danny Ainge faces another crossroads this summer. He has to decide where the Celtics go from here, and the decision won’t be easy. Ainge has long made it clear that he holds no loyalty toward his players and that he’ll do what’s best for the Celtics. That could mean that it’s time to sever ties with Garnett and Pierce, because the longer Ainge keeps his two stars on the roster, the longer it will take to rebuild.”
But finding a team for either player will not be easy. As Schuhmann himself pointed out in the same piece, Garnett has been surrounded by retirement talk this season and it’s hard to contemplate Pierce agreeing to playing in any other uniform but Celtics green. Besides that, other than Rondo, Ainge does not have any other enticing assets to land a substantial player in the 2013 offseason. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Avery Bradley are all signed with the Celtics through 2013-14, but barring Green, it is highly unlikely that Ainge could land a marquee option for any of the other players.
For once, Danny Ainge’s position, in whose hands the future of the NBA’s most successful franchise rests, is not enviable.
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