The Celtics had just escaped with a scintillating win, but I couldn't help myself.
"47 minutes!" I screamed at the television. "Why in the world did Rajon Rondo play 47 minutes? He has a sore hamstring! And plantar fasciitis! And didn't you see last game, when he asked to come out just so he could stretch himself? C'mon, Doc! Give him some rest! This is a December game against the Philadelphia 76ers!"
It's frustrating sometimes. We hear about how Rondo's injury could potentially worsen, and then we see him average 39 minutes per game. It takes a blowout of epic proportions (read: the Charlotte Bobcats) for Rivers to offer Rondo some serious rest.
In games, at least. Practices are a different story.
Rivers actually rests his team as much as possible, just not when the bright lights are on. (Boston Herald)
The Celtics didn’t practice yesterday. They won’t practice today either.
They may win the NBA championship this season, but the title of "Hardest Working Team in Show Business" is probably out of reach. And that’s by necessity.
Doc Rivers knows he must preserve his veterans if he hopes to lead them to a successful June. If that means they lose touch with the moniker worn by the late James Brown, well, so be it.
As frustrating as it can be to see Rondo (and whichever other starters play too many minutes) run into the floor on game nights, Rivers probably plays this perfectly. Give his players rest on off days, then ride them on game nights. This is a veteran-laden squad Rivers has at his disposal. Those veterans don't need as much practice time as most teams. What they really need is rest, and it's better to provide that when nobody's there to keep score.
Of course, there is a downside to less practice time. Rivers says he sees slippage ("You can definitely see the difference in the way we play and the way we execute when we don’t practice"), and young newcomers like Semih Erden (or Avery Bradley, or Luke Harangody, or Von Wafer) need as much practice time as possible. God knows those guys won't be getting much work come game time. Skipping practices undoubtedly stunts their development.
But healing and rest, for this team, are more important than execution. Keeping the veterans fresh is more crucial than ushering the newcomers along. And winning regular season games, for this squad, is more necessary than practice time. This team already knows how to execute. But that seemingly-meaningless December win in Philly could pay huge dividends down the road, in the form of homecourt advantage.
Game 7 The Game That Must Not Be Named had been played in Boston, do you really think the Celtics would have coughed up that 13-point lead? Alright, now I'm in the mood to light myself on fire. But my point is this:
Winning regular season games is important, and I'm glad the Celtics now see it the same way. Rest can continue to come during practice time, when the Celtics' record cannot be altered.
Also, the next time Rondo plays 47 minutes, I will inevitably forget everything I wrote in this piece. And I will once again scream at my television, and I will once again rage about Rondo's lack of rest.