It has that certain feeling to it. The feeling you got when you’re a kid and something exciting that you couldn't wait for to happen is only a day away so it kept you up most of the night. Like Christmas morning, or even your birthday. For Celtics fans it's butterflies in your stomach that you’re feeling because you can't wait to see the return of Rajon Rondo.
It's been 359 days since their point guard was last seen in his iconic #9 jersey. Or as it’s been said in Rajon’s language: 30 million plus some odd seconds. That is how long we as fans, us in the basketball world, have been playing the waiting game.
It's a day I won't forget anytime soon, as that faithful Sunday afternoon could have possibly changed the course of this franchise forever as we knew it. Some already knew to some extent, or refused to admit to it; that no matter what would transpire in the next three months or so, following the devastating news, that Rondo had suffered an ACL tear, it was the beginning of the end of the 'Ubuntu' era. Maybe the end was before that day? Maybe we were just witnessing borrowed time, and we needed a dose of reality to accept the fact it was time for a change, a new chapter needed to be added to the lengthy history book that is the Boston Celtics.
In any case, Rondo is set to make his return tonight against another historic franchise, the rival Los Angeles Lakers at the TD Garden. Can you smell it in the air? It's the smell of hope. Whether you are in the 'tank' club or not, you can't help but be ecstatic about the endless possibilities this player brings to the table. Even Danny Ainge agrees it doesn't matter how many times you practice or play pick up, it's not the same feeling than to be on that stage when the lights shine its brightest and you feed off the energy from the crowd.
"He has to get back out on the court and he has to try it, and now is as good a time as any," said the Celtics GM. [Boston Herald]
In nearly 12 months of
recovery, Rajon has seen a lot of changes since the night of the double OT lost
in Atlanta. Only Bass, Green, Bradley and Sullinger remain as familiar faces he
has gotten to know, but you can also add Brad Stevens to the list as well. The
two have gotten off to a great start in the 'rebuilding process' and that was a major concern the day a new coach was announced as the successor to Doc.
We all know how very quick and smart Rondo is and it will be interesting to see
how his basketball I.Q. translates into actually calling out plays at game
speed after being away for so long.
"You know he hasn't called a game on the fly in a while, and one of the things that I'll try to help him do is figure out what might be some of the best things just off the top of his mind that he can blow out," Stevens said. "He's a lot like Manning and Brady and all those guys. He can see things and audible on the fly, and that's good."
On February 22, Rajon Rondo will turn 27 years-old, the same age former captain Paul Pierce was the season after the Celtics suffered through an 18-game losing streak (the worst in franchise history) and was recovering from season-ending surgery. Ainge knew then who was the face of the Boston Celtics and who he wanted to build around to raise that 17th banner. Seven years later, not only is it so obvious and blatant who the next Mufasa on this team should be, there should not be a shadow of a doubt who is next in line to wear that C. After watching Jordan Crawford try and lead this team for most of this 14-26 start, it's clear what was lacking in key moments of close games, the ability and patience to run a play. We all know who is great at that.
Let's not kid ourselves; there is no one who plays like Rondo, not even similar to how he can dominate at any given time. The scary part is how much better he can become still in his eighth year as a pro. He should be the foundation of the next championship contender as far as I'm concerned, it's safer than waiting to see who comes into the draft that might make an impact or might not (Does anybody remember the Oden sweepstakes?) Danny has stock piled draft picks to play with, so maybe history repeats itself, or he is just going with the flow. Either way, Rondo should not be traded.
It is in his absence that we have realized his greatness.
As I write this piece, the very popular sounds of "I Will Wait For You" by Mumford & Sons has graced the room, and I can't help but shake my head and agree with the duo. The day I had learned of Rajon's fate, it was only fitting as an advocate of his game to be patient and wait for him to come back and make the Celtics winners and fun to watch again. As we are hours away from probably one of the biggest returns in franchise history, do yourself a favor... forget about the future, trade rumors and 'tanking' for a moment, forget all of it. Just let Rondo be great. We owe him that much to say the least. Welcome back employee # 9. Who needs sleep? A new day has arrived.
Check out my article from last January on Rondo's injury and the Celtics moving forward, see what a difference a year makes. Enjoy. [It's a New Day']