The Celtics took Monday off, presumably to recover from the stunning news of Rajon Rondo’s season-ending knee injury and to formulate a new plan.
Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the Celtics will not make a knee-jerk reaction to losing their starting point guard. While the national media actively discussed whether the team should start fresh by dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and rebuild through the draft and free agency, Ainge said the organization will take a deep breath, assess its options, and determine whether another point guard is needed.
Coach Doc Rivers reiterated to reporters that the Celtics weren’t going to concede the season. They are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but just 5 ½ games behind third-seeded Chicago with 38 games to play.
The NBA’s trade deadline is Feb. 21, so Ainge has more than three weeks to determine whether his current roster with perhaps a point-guard addition is good enough to compete in the East.
“We’ll see what transpires here the next few weeks with this team,” Ainge said. “We’re waiting. We’re waiting to see who’s all available and see what our needs are. Right now we have no needs. We got 11 healthy bodies and it’s tough to get those 11 guys on the court. We have good healthy players that can’t get the time they deserve and they want, so we have no need right now. We’ll see over the next few weeks what we need.”
The Celtics could go with point guard by committee with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa all handling the ball.
Rivers, however, has also said the Celtics don’t have a ball-handler comfortable with the point-guard position besides Rondo. While Barbosa, Terry, and Lee have played point in the past, they are more natural combination guards, and the Celtics would prefer Bradley play shooting guard.
And the offense will change dramatically without Rondo, an All-Star point guard, as last season Rivers assigned Rondo the responsibility of play-calling. During Sunday’s 100-98 double-overtime win over the Miami Heat, Rivers called plays from the bench and reduced his playbook.
The team could pursue a point guard by trade or free agency. The Raptors have two on their roster who split time, Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry. The Celtics are interested in both, but salary may be an issue. Calderon is in the final year of his contract at $10.5 million while Lowry earns $5.75 million and has a $1 million buyout for the 2013-14 season.
Also, former Celtics point guard Keyon Dooling told the Globe he would consider a comeback after retiring after last season. Dooling is now the team’s player development director and retired after agreeing to a one-year deal to return to Boston.
Finally, according to an NBA source ex-Celtic point guard Delonte West is interested in returning to the club. West last played with the Celtics in 2010-11 and the club did not try to re-sign him after that season.
When asked whether the Celtics can accomplish their lofty preseason season goals without Rondo, Ainge said, “I don’t know. We’ll wait and see the next few weeks. We have to give it a shot. It’s a hand we’re dealt.”
Ainge did say Rondo should be ready by October training camp, which is an encouraging sign considering fears he may miss a year or more.
“Rajon will get surgery in 10-14 days, when the swelling is right and we anticipate that he’ll be back and as good as ever in training camp,” Ainge said. “[Kendrick Perkins] came back in six months and that’s a little bit unusual and Adrian Peterson came back in six months and so did Wes Welker. I guess every body is a little bit different and every injury there’s some differences.”
A team official gave the following timeline on how Rondo found out about his torn ACL:
Rondo reported to the arena about 10 a.m. and was asked to do an interview with ABC’s Mike Tirico. Rondo told Tirico he wanted to do the interview following the team’s shootaround, which concluded at 11. Once shootaround was over and Rondo began feeling knee soreness, he told a team official he wanted to get some treatment on his leg before the interview.
Following the treatment, Tirico interviewed Rondo, and then Rondo went back in for more treatment. Head trainer Ed Lacerte informed the team’s public relations staff just before tip-off that Rondo would miss the game with a hyperextended right knee, and Rondo headed to New England Baptist Hospital for a precautionary MRI.
During the second quarter, ABC reporter Doris Burke told team officials she was hearing that Rondo had a torn ACL, although team doctor Brian McKeon said he had yet to read the MRI. Rivers said McKeon believed Rondo had an ACL tear from his initial examination before the game but that he didn’t want to tell the point guard until he viewed the MRI.
McKeon read the MRI at halftime and told the public relations staff about the torn ACL just moments after meeting with Rondo. Burke then reported on ABC in the third quarter about Rondo’s injury and the team announced it to the print and Internet media.
Rondo came out during the second overtime to the tunnel to greet his teammates following the victory and informed them that he would miss the rest of the season.