Thursday 23rd October 2014,
The Hoop Doctors

Boston Celtics Not Better Off Without Rajon Rondo

dfavale February 4, 2013 Dan Favale 3 Comments

The Boston Celtics are undefeated since losing Rajon Rondo, which does anything but speak volumes about the point guard’s value to the team.

Without Rondo, the Celtics are 4-0 and have snagged victories over the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, two authentic contenders. Naturally, after such immense, albeit brief, success, the narrative in Boston centers on whether or not the Celtics are actually better off with Rondo.

Even after four straight Rondo-less victories, I’m going to have to say no, just like Courtney Lee did:

While I acknowledge such a question’s premise, I reject any conclusion that asserts Boston is a better team without Rondo. I watched as the Celtics moved the ball swiftly and precisely through the first half of their victory over the Clippers on Super Sunday. I watched them cut off the path to the basket in the second quarter en route to holding Los Angeles to just 10 points. And subsequently, I watched them take a seemingly insurmountable 19-point lead into halftime.

Still, at no time during that first half did I believe Boston was better off without Rondo. At all.

Instead, I saw a rarity: The Celtics playing at a pace that actually suits Rondo best.

Boston is has become notorious for its half-court offensive sets and ability to control the pace of the game. In the first half against the Clippers, though, it controlled the pace by playing lockdown defense and running an uptempo offense. As a transitional guru, that uptempo offense is something Rondo can thrive in if it was run consistently.

But it’s not run with frequency, because Boston isn’t built to sustain such a blistering pace.

Which leads me to the actual question at hand: Should the Celtics be building around Rondo?

If Boston is going to continue to push the ball on offense, then the answer to that question is a wholehearted yes. Otherwise, it’s a no, thus devaluing the Celtics’ currently inclination to assemble a roster around its point man.

I’m in no way claiming Rondo isn’t the type of point guard you can build around, but when you have a Celtics team that ranks 18th in Pace (possessions per 48 minutes), you don’t have a team that is playing to Rondo’s strengths—running. Should they wish to continue to move forward with Rondo as their pillar, then upping the ante on the offensive end and surrounding him with athletically exuberant talent is a must. He’ll torch opposing defenses if Boston does so.

Should the Celtics decide to uphold this grind-it-out image they’ve concocted, then Rondo should be used a star-studded vessel that controls the tempo of the game with his ball-control, not fast-break stylings.

Are the Celtics winning without Rondo? Yes. Are they different without Rondo? Of course. Could they very well opt to move on from the notion that they must build around Rondo? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean they’re better off without him.

As Lee went on to put it, if anything, the Celtics are better off because of Rondo:

Perhaps that’s true. Maybe his devotion to his team has rubbed off on his teammates. Maybe they’re playing inspired basketball in the face of adversity.

Or maybe the Celtics are finally running an offense that suits Rondo, without him. Or maybe they’re relying on him less and holding themselves accountable in his absences.

Yeah, that’s a lot of maybes.

But what isn’t up for debate is the Celtics almost blew that 19-point lead against the Clippers we previously spoke of. Suddenly, the ball stopped moving, Boston stopped pushing and Los Angeles came out surging—all of which transpired without Rondo. The same Rondo who could have prevented the Celtics’ offensive stagnancy before it actualized itself.

And the same Rondo who we have no business believing is anything other than a vital asset to this Celtics team.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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  • Bryan

    What this article fails to mention is that Doc frequently implores Rondo to push the pace but Rondo doesn’t always comply. Rondo seems to push the pace with much more frequency when he grabs a rebound. However, when Rondo is crashing the defensive boards and doesn’t grab the rebound, he’ll actually call for the ball from the rebounder, even if the rebounder is capable of taking the ball up court, which slows the pace and allows the other team to get set in their half-court D. And then the Celts’ deficiencies in the half-court O are pretty clear, no interior post presence, too much jump shooting not enough slashing to the hoop

    • Dan

      It doesn’t fail to mention that; it’s not the point. Rondo prefers to run, he just doesn’t always have the personnel necessary. Totally agree on him commanding the ball far too often sometimes, but that has nothing to do with him refusing to push the pace. Ball movement does need to improve with him in the game, but his teammates also need to move more without the ball when he’s in. They seem to expect that they’re relegated to a spot-up role. A lot of it has to do with their movements (or lack thereof) and not just his.

      • Mcjaggar dabest

        U got that goddamn right