June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Banners hang in the rafters of the TD Garden before game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics on Paper: Banners

Glance up at those championship Banners.  They didn’t get there by themselves.

Many great players gave everything they had to earn them.  Many more role players worked just as hard to earn them.  They suffered misfortune, injury, age and attrition – and those banners are testament to their ability to adapt, to improvise, to overcome.

Glance up at those banners, take the desired motivation from them, because you have just been dealt misfortune.

Boston Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee.  He will undergo surgery this week, but was able to make it back from his MRI and diagnosis just in time to see the Captain drill the game winner against the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon – having a Rondo-esque game in the floor general’s absence.

The Boston Celtics rely on Rajon Rondo to generate scoring opportunities more than any other team in the NBA, not just opportunities, but easy opportunities.

In fact, they relied on him too much, to the point that during last Wednesday’s nationally televised loss to the Knicks, Analyst Kenny Smith all but called out the Celtics players for doing so.  But now that the Celtics’ don’t have Rondo any more this season, they’re going to have to heed Smith’s words.

In suggesting to the TNT Panel including Charles Barkely, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Webber that the Celtics were struggling on offense because the Celtics players were not creating their own shots without Rondo or Paul Pierce on the floor, he essentially accused the Celtics of being complacent, unmotivated and soft.

The fact that not even Barkley, who frequently spars on camera with Smith, disagreed with Smith’s analysis is compelling – even Doc Rivers acknowledged it a month before Smith said a word when talking about why he had Jason Terry in his starting lineup, stating, “I need him to be on the court with someone who can get him the ball.”  That someone was Rondo.  Apparently there is no one else that can get him the ball…

Rondo leads the NBA in assists per game with 11.1, far and away the most in the league, with no other player in double figures and Rondo’s total is exactly half of what the Celtics are averaging as a team, with Pierce’s 3.8 assists per game making him the only other Celtic averaging more than one per game…

…combine that with the fact that Rondo is third on the team in rebounding and scoring, and it becomes clear that the Celtics became too reliant on two players to do the dirty work, the little things that make the difference between winning and losing.

And now one of them is gone…and clearly the Celtics are a better team with him, but they will have to do it without him.

Pierce picked up his game against the Miami Heat despite still mired in a horrendous shooting slump, logging a triple double with 17 point, 11 board, 10 assist effort in leading Boston to a 100-98 double overtime victory that demonstrated the kind of poise the Celtics have lacked for the past 8 games.

Garnett had a KG-of-old game against the Heat.  Terry created his own shots including an incredible driving score in clutch time.  Pierce drilled a jumper for the game winner…these guys aren’t spring chickens, but they have provided the rest of this talented roster with an example of what it means to step up your game…

…so perhaps the Rondo injury does have a silver lining.  They clearly will miss Rondo, but if his being out forces the undeniable talent on this team to play up to that talent, they may be a more well-rounded team without him.

The starting lineup of Courtney Lee, defensive whiz Avery Bradley, Pierce, Grumpy old man Kevin Garnett and rookie prodigy Jared Sullinger is enough to give most teams fits, and with designated Skywalker Jeff Green and Terry contributing big numbers off the bench, the Celtics have enough to win consistently, it’s just going to take every player doing his part and sharing the load.

The Celtics are actually a better statistical defensive team without Rondo, who had a propensity to turn the ball over in chunks, leading to easy transition baskets.  In fact, the Celtics allowed a shocking five points a game less without Rondo…

So, though any injury is unfortunate, maybe it’s a good thing that it causes desperation to set in on the Celtics – maybe it lights a fire under them, gives them a rallying cry, makes them feel like the underdogs instead of omnipotent beneficiaries of past glory…

…because the past is the past.  Just because those seven words are blazoned across your chests doesn’t make you champions by default, just because you play in Titletown and have the Boston mystique in your favor doesn’t mean that you’re automatically handed victory.

The name, the mystique, the aura all precede you, and it’s supposed to be a privilege and an honor  to wear the green – it’s expected that in exchange for wearing the most iconic jersey in professional basketball that you preform up to your ability, that you satisfy the responsibility associated with wearing the jersey.

A player should be motivated by the opportunity that they have to play this game, but if it takes losing the heart and soul of your team to understand the depth of your responsibility, then you just got motivated…if you didn’t, you have no business being a professional basketball player, let alone a Celtic.

Glance up at those championship banners.  They don’t get there by themselves.

Tags: Boston Celtics Miami Heat

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