I don't expect the Celtics to turn into Coach Dale's Hoosiers and pass the ball four times before every shot, but everyone's going to touch the ball and the versatility and unique skill sets that everybody brought to the table that got us all excited before the season began might finally be showcased. As Scott Souza alludes to, when you have the best pure point guard in the league, you'd be foolish not to run the offense through him. The problem is, that relegated everybody to the Ray Allen role in the offense and really, nobody does Ray Allen like Ray Allen does. The elevation and quickness of his jump shot is unmatched.
Norman Dale (via TECMOfantasy)
But this summer when Danny Ainge "replaced" #20 with Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa, people like me who lamented failed offensive sets where Ray would run off a series of screens and NOT get a shot off loved the idea of bringing in players that brought a more diverse skill set to the table. Both Terry and Lee could more effectively put the ball on the floor and either take it to the rack or create for others off the dribble. That meant more options for the offense for a team that struggled on that end of the floor.
Alas, that didn't happen. With Rondo averaging over 37 minutes a game, the Celtics offense ran primarily through #9. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Although Boston remains one of the best shooting teams in terms of FG%, they currently rank 26th in efficiency and 20th in points scored.
No one will argue that the Celtics will be a better team without Rondo. He's their most dynamic playmaker and the toughest individual match up for the opposing team. However, if there's a silver lining in all this, it's that players that have been underachieving in the first half of the season will be able to utilize their abilities more so than they did before. Basketball is a tricky sport because there's a give and take with everything that you do. It's why Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have difficulty sharing the court together. It's why Steph Curry and Monta Ellis couldn't co-exist in Golden State. To some extent, Rondo's brilliance made it unnecessary for Lee, Terry, and Barbosa to step up consistently. But with Rondo out until next season, these guys will get their chance to show fans what each of them has been successfully doing throughout their careers on other teams. From Souza's piece:
Celtics guard Jason Terry wanted to get the qualifier out there right away.
"Don't get me wrong," he prefaced, "Rajon (Rondo) makes us the best we can possibly be."
(You can just hear that BUT coming, can't you?)
"But," he continued, "now, having multiple ball-handlers out there, it's just going to make us unpredictable. You don't know who's going to handle it. I think the wings are going to get out there and run a little harder. We should be able to play in transition a little more."
Honestly, I think guys like Terry, Lee, and Barbosa are relishing at this opportunity. As great as it was to be on the shooting end of a Rondo assist, these guys are playmakers--specifically Terry and Barbosa--and I'm sure they're looking forward to sharing the ball more and getting more touches. I've made comparisons to that 2011 Dallas Mavericks championship team because that team really simplified their offense and made everybody a threat. Sure, they had Dirk and we have Pierce and Garnett, but what made that team special were the contributions of Terry, Marion, and Barea. They were guys that could run pick-and-roll and make all the right decisions. That could be the 2013 Celtics without Rondo. D'Amico points out that the team might have a problem with bring up the ball without RR, but as soon as they hit the half court, they're going to be deadly:
"That part, honestly, I don't think it's much different," Rivers said. "If you watch our second unit, that's what they were doing. I don't see a lot of change there.
"We're already doing it a lot with the second unit. The first unit was watching it, what we were doing with the ball movement. There was no point guard system with that unit. That unit was becoming very successful. Now, the entire team does that. We did it once so far against Miami. Now, we just have to get better at it."
This also unlocks the playmaking abilities of Jeff Green and over the course of the next forty games, we're really going to see if he's a future star in this league and the heir apparent to Paul Pierce at the 3. He's had a few confidence building moments through out the year, but none as big as Sunday's game. Down the stretch, he was hitting big threes and throwing down big dunks but most importantly, taking the lion's share of the responsibility of stopping LeBron. Going forward, look for JG to take a big step.
Jeff Green Throws Down on the Heat (via NBA)
Still can't get enough of that dunk.