Somehow, the Celtics pulled off a hard-fought, wildly emotional victory against the Miami Heat -- arguably the NBA's best team and an NBA Finals lock, barring a major injury or some sort of miraculous occurrence. But, honestly, who cares?
Rajon Rondo's season is reportedly finished due to a knee injury, which means that Danny Ainge loses his most valuable piece and must surely entertain serious trade discussions with team executives from one coast to the other. Now, "blowing it all up" and rebuilding become two not-so-distant possibilities, and absolutely nobody should be surprised if a major trade is made in the coming weeks. With an injury of this nature, reality soon sets in. The Celtics have been stuck in the same frustrating mode all season long -- the thinking was that they could go on a deep postseason run if the players could stay healthy and somehow catch fire, while the seeding ended up working in their favor. This, of course, was only feasible with the team's starting point and most explosive offensive talent. Now, the Boston Celtics cannot contend for an NBA title and even a posteason berth will be tough to come by, despite what some irrational Bostonians may tell you. With the Rondo injury, the quest for postseason relevance suddenly turned completely on its head -- saving face, talent-searching (e.g. Rudy Gay, Josh Smith, DeMarcus Cousins, and we'll soon see who else), and "representing the organization in the right way" are now the true names of the game.
The season is over, the Playoffs indefinite, the future uncertain.
As Ainge works the telephone lines and scours the league for workable trade fodder, nobody can be off limits. Nor should they be. Hoisting another championship banner doesn't seem likely in the near future, let alone this current season. The 2012-13 Celtics are going nowhere fast, so why not swap your aging pieces while they're still remotely desirable and opposing teams still come calling for their services? Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger have proven their worth as young pieces with significant potential, which makes them the team's most valuable on-court assets outside of Rajon Rondo -- so, it's understandable if team executives are reluctant to give them up, even for coveted commodities like Gay and Cousins. Elite-level rebounding and defensive skills are incredibly difficult to come by, and Danny Ainge's front office understands that. But, there's no reason to believe that everyone else isn't disposable at this point. Veterans, experience, and battle-tested intangibles don't mean anything now, when lottery picks are for the taking and the future is yet to be determined.
Assets, assets, and more assets are to be had.
Much remains in the air. When an injury of this magnitude befalls one of the league's most exciting (and one-of-a-kind) talents, predicting the next step in the decision-making process can be extremely difficult. The only certainty is Rajon Rondo's status as an uncanny playmaker and undeniable value to a Boston team in desperate need of game-changers on both ends. He has been a consistent talking point in those habitual "best point guard in the NBA" conversations over the past few years and only seems to elevate his level of play during the postseason, cementing himself as one of the league's few legitimate triple-double threats and assist-generating machines.
No matter where the next few weeks take us (Thursday, February 21st represents the official end to the whirling dervish of trade rumors), the most important variable at this most unfortunate time is Rajon Rondo's health. Let's wish him a speedy recovery and successful return to basketball-related activities. The NBA just isn't the same without his tantalizing highs, baffling lows, and "you couldn't possibly understand my thought process" fluctuations in mood.