Hey, did you guys know that Rajon Rondo is out for the season and the Celtics have won all of the games they've played since he went down?
They must be better without him right? Four games, all wins, no Rondo. Who needs him?
The Celtics, that's who.
Four games does not a season make but it would appear that's been lost on a couple of prominent Celtics' observers. The fact that the C's were three games under .500 prior to Rondo's season-ending ACL injury is all that folks like Boston.com columnist/98.5 The Sports Hub afternoon drive host Tony Massarotti and longtime Celts' reporter now working for ESPNBoston.com Peter May, have needed to enforce their respective theories that the Celtics are better off without their All-Star point guard.
Massarotti, who either hates Rondo or simply says he does so as to not appear to be in disagreement with his co-host on said afternoon drive show here in Boston, also managed to get in key words like "petulant" and "overrated" in a piece he wrote earlier this week in which he postulates that this team is better off without Rondo.
"Beyond that, ask yourself this: how many players on these Celtics have played their best basketball since Rondo's season ended? Terry looks like a different player. So does Pierce... All too often, players like Rondo are praised for making people around them better, but it certainly feels as if the opposite happened to these Celtics.
Rondo made them all worse."
Yep. You read that right. Rondo made them all worse.
Here's another sample size for Mazz, as he's known up here, to sink his teeth into. 19 games.
That's the amount of games Rondo played in last year's playoffs. You remember those, right? The ones in which the Celtics, playing with Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins at center and Mickael Pietrus as their main man off the bench, took the mighty Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals and were one win away from a third NBA Finals appearance in five seasons on two separate occasions?
Of course you do. Mazz does too although I dare anyone to get him to admit it. In those 19 games Rondo, who according to Mazz made all his teammates worse this season before he got hurt, averaged 17.3 points, 11.9 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals while shooting 47 percent from the floor over 42.6 minutes per game.
But the Celtics are better off without him.
May ignores last year's postseason in favor of these most recent four games as well.
"The Celtics can't be better without their MVP Rajon Rondo, can they? They got 20 losses in those 38 games. That's the statistic to focus on. The Celtics were a sub-.500 team. Now they're above water again at 24-23, winners of four straight, and it is impossible not to notice what is going on. The Celtics have become the team they were supposed to be."
"What sparked this streak? The Celtics have been playing better defense over the course of the last month, and the numbers prove it. If the Celtics continue to run through teams, many will point to Rajon Rondo's season-ending torn right ACL injury as the Celtics' turning point. Truth be told, the C's began to get their act together well before their current four-game winning streak."
The C's, Blakely notes, held opponents to 42.1 percent shooting from the floor in January, second only to the Chicago Bulls in that category. In case Mazz and/or May forgot, Rondo played in 12 of the Celts' 14 games in that month.
Look, the bottom line is that the Celtics are playing very well right now, and they're doing it in a different fashion than they have at any point since before Rondo's injury. It even said in this very space a little over a week ago that what is currently happening, most likely would.
Rondo being out has liberated the offense a bit. Guys like Jason Terry and Jeff Green seem to have a bit more room to breathe now that the approach is a bit more free-wheeling. And No. 9's absence has allowed for more time to feature the backcourt duo of Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley together, a combo that comprises a hellacious defensive opponent for other teams.
But are the C's truly better without Rondo? Hardly. Maybe if they play.600 or better ball over the second half of the season, somehow will themselves into a better playoff seeding and then make another postseason run a la last year, we can rekindle this debate. And of course, all of that is contingent on Danny Ainge not making any significant deals between now and the Feb. 21, trade deadline.
This is simply an occasion for Rondo haters like Mazz (and maybe May - I'm not sure if he really dislikes Rondo or was simply fulfilling an assignment with his commentary) to beat their chests and tell you how much better their lives would be if the "petulant" point guard would simply go away for good and stop being mean to their poor, put upon media brethren who routinely patrol the Celts' locker room.
Rondo can be a tough player to root for. His issues with officials and the league office are quite frustrating. When he passes up uncontested layups in favor of passing to other guys for lower percentage shots, it can be maddening.
But he's also a scintillating, high-caliber player the likes of which most of us, including Mazz and May, have rarely seen in terms of what makes up his game. The Celts may have been struggling before his injury, but they are not a better team since.
Look no further than last year's playoffs if you don't believe it. Or the 2011 postseason when he played with one arm. Or 2010 when he was the floor general who led the team to one quarter away from a second championship in three years. Or 2008 when, albeit in a lesser role, he was the starting point guard on a title winner.
The Celtics need Rajon Rondo if they ever want to reach that level again.