It still seems unreal, a downright nightmare that the Celtics have to move on without their all-star point guard, Rajon Rondo for the rest of the season.
From the moment game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals ended last season, it was a sure thing that Rondo would be back the following season better than ever. Not only leading the NBA in assists but possibly leading his team to banner #18.
It's hard to put into words the number of thoughts that rushed through my mind as I'm watching the Celtics battle the Heat in a close game Sunday afternoon. In a crucial moment of the third quarter, Doris Burke of ESPN decides to throw me for a loop by informing us that Rondo had in fact torn his ACL and was done for the season.
I was mute trying to process what I heard. Suddenly, for a split second, trying to beat Miami didn't matter anymore. And all I could utter in my loudest tone was simply... "F**K!!!"
Pretty sure most of Celtics nation seconded that notion.
Meanwhile there was still a game to win. The Celtics were playing the best game of the season. As my phone was blowing up with texts from people wanting to know my reaction from this shocking news, I didn't move from my seat. Something told me this game meant more now than it did before tipoff.
We all know how the day ended. C's beat Miami in double OT and ruined the return of Judas, formally known as Jesus Shuttlesworth. Rondo impacted the day without taking the court. Paul Pierce celebrated his big shot we as fans have become accustomed to seeing at the Garden, but it was the beginning of life without Rondo once the team retreated to the locker room.
It's easy to look back and start asking yourself, what if? What if the Celtics had taken care of a 27-point lead versus the Hawks on Friday night? Rondo would not have been in the game in the fourth quarter, thus not needing to go to overtime, let alone double overtime, maybe Rondo would not have torn his ACL. Playing devil's advocate with any situation never really solves anything. The way I see it, it's the 'what ifs' that kill you the most.
Rondo was hanging out at Keyon Dooling's house Saturday night. Just as he had on any other regular day, since the two are really good friends. They were watching t.v. and according to Dooling, "Talking about life. He had mentioned in passing his leg was hurting [but it was] no big deal"
Rondo was walking around normally for more than two days thinking he had tweaked his hamstring. Little did he know, what Doc Rivers, Dr. McKeon and Jackie MacMullan to some extent, already knew, that Rondo would not be playing any more basketball this season.
I should be writing the "obituary" as Doc says most probably will, but I'm not, for the simple fact of what Doc said, just as he did last season when all seemed lost, "I still like this team."
Let's just hope Doc and Danny are on the same page.
"We've had success playing for short periods of time without Rajon," Ainge said. "It will be an interesting test for us. Not a test we wanted. And, frankly, [it's a test] I'm worried about."
Call me optimistic or simply just trying to remain positive here in 2013. But watching this team for the last six years, plus all that we have witnessed in the city of Boston over the past decade in sports, I'm saying lets just see what happens. With Doc running this study group, I like their chances come exam time.
Here are a few points that might steer this team in the right path in absence of their floor leader:
Pierce has to become this team's playmaker now. He has done this in the past, case in point: Sunday versus Miami. His shots will come but he has to run the offense, which he already feels comfortable doing.
They also will need KG and The Jet to lead this team by knocking down big shots down the stretch. They are both proven champions whom have been well tested in the playoffs throughout their careers. I'm giving Terry another chance to redeem his performance this season.
Lastly, Bradley and Lee have to become a quick transition back court that will score easy buckets. How will they do that? By doing what they do best; playing on-ball defense by turning up the perimeter pressure.
You have to figure Doc has already had much more tricks up his sleeve. We know he loves a challenge, so let the games begin.
I knew what ever happened on Sunday would either make or break this team. That is now more true than ever. Even in the wake of this darkest hour, this adversity is what will define this Celtics team once and for all.