Rondo Injury Changes Celtics Futures, Could Lead To Break Up Of Team
The Boston Celtics probably weren't going to win the NBA title as it was, but any realistic chance the C's had of upsetting the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference went out the window with Sunday's stunning news that All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo was done for the season with a torn ACL.
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Rondo was injured in Friday night's game against Atlanta, but it wasn't thought to be anything serious. In fact, he played 45 minutes and had his second-straight triple-double. Rondo's knee/hamstring was a bit sore, but he went through warm-ups before Sunday's game against Miami, only to get pulled at the last minute. An MRI confirmed the torn ACL.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers actually heard the news before the game but did not tell his players. It appeared that Paul Pierce found out only through a post-game TV interview with ESPN's Doris Burke. Rondo was in street clothes to watch the end of Sunday's win. He was named an All-Star starter this season for the first time and is averaging 13.7 points, an NBA-high 11.1 assists (he was the book's preseason favorite to lead the NBA in assists for the second-straight year) and 5.6 rebounds in 38 games.
Recent history shows Boston might be okay without Rondo. The C's ended a six-game losing streak with Sunday's upset of Miami. In the past four seasons, the team is 21-13 without Rondo, including 3-3 this year. Boston is plus-2.9 points per 48 minutes with Rondo on the court since the 2008-09 season and plus-4.4 points when he's on the bench.
Still, that's misleading. Rondo is clearly the team's best player and probably the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Some combination of Courtney Lee (who started in Rondo's spot Sunday and was 1-for-7 shooting with four points) Jason Terry, Avery Bradley and Leandro Barbosa simply can't replace Rondo.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has to consider trading high-priced veterans Kevin Garnett and Pierce and start the Celtics' rebuilding. Garnett, 36, got a surprisingly big contract this offseason and probably won't be going anywhere considering he has a no-trade clause and has said he wants to retire as a Celtic. The 35-year-old Pierce, who had a triple-double on Sunday, could bring back value. He doesn't have a no-trade clause and just $5 million of his $15.3 million contract is guaranteed for next season.
Ainge told reporters Sunday that he would evaluate what moves need to be made, but admitted the team "will be different."
"We've had success playing for short periods of time without Rajon," Ainge said, "but we've never had to play without him for long periods of time."
The Celtics are 21-23 and hold down the eighth playoff spot in the East, meaning they would have to face Miami in the first round of the postseason if it started today. The Celtics were 25/1 to win the NBA title at Bovada and 12/1 to win the East before the Rondo injury - those odds have moved to 30/1 and 14/1.
No. 9 Philadelphia might benefit the most from this injury as the Sixers are 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the East. The 76ers have played all season without center Andrew Bynum, but signs are that he could make his Philadelphia debut within a few weeks. Bynum has been participating in game-day shootarounds and in non-contact drills as he works his way back from a knee injury. The team is hoping Bynum can participate in full practice by the end of this week and perhaps play a game or two before the All-Star break, which begins February 14.
Early-Week Live Betting Schedule
On Tuesday, the book will feature Golden State at Cleveland and New Orleans at the L.A. Lakers for live play-by-play betting. The Lakers' future suddenly looks brighter as they beat Oklahoma City 105-96 on Sunday for their second-straight win.
The difference for Los Angeles appears to be that Kobe Bryant is taking fewer shots and has become a pseudo-point guard. In the Lakers' first 42 games, Bryant averaged 22.1 shots per game. He averaged 29.2 points, but L.A. was 17-25 and outscoring foes by 0.8 points per game. In the past two games, Bryant is averaging 11 shots per game and 17.5 points. The Lakers are outscoring their opponents by 13.5 points in those two, and Bryant is averaging 14 assists. Overall, the Lakers are 11-6 this season when Kobe scores fewer than 28 points and 8-19 when he tops that number. When Bryant has less than 20 field-goal attempts, the Lakers are 13-3. He has had more assists than shot attempts the past two games - that had happened just three previous times in Kobe's career when he played at least 30 minutes.
Mike D'Antoni was hired as the Lakers coach because of his offensive system. However, the team isn't running his normal offense in the past two games, with usual point guard Steve Nash playing off the ball and Bryant handling most ball-handling duties. The Lakers are averaging 103.5 points per game in the past two and shooting 54.5% from the field.
The Lakers are currently 18/1 at the book to win the NBA title and 9/1 to win the West. Their game Wednesday at Phoenix also will have live play-by-play betting, as will Miami at Brooklyn. Check back Thursday for the weekend Live Betting schedule at Bovada.
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