One of the lingering questions after Rajon Rondo's season ended Sunday with the diagnosis of a torn ACL in his right knee was: When exactly did Rondo injure himself?
A review of the game film from Friday's double-overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks shows that Rondo appeared to tweak his right knee on a drive to the basket late in the fourth quarter. Encountering traffic near the hoop, a leaping Rondo kicked the ball out to Kevin Garnett, but landed awkwardly and could be seen hobbling back out toward the 3-point arc as Boston retained possession.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he was unsure of the exact play in which the injury occurred, but said he believed it to be in the fourth quarter against the Hawks. Here's the crazy part: Rondo presumably played the next 12 minutes of that contest with a torn ACL. Then he showed up on Sunday at TD Garden ready to fight through what he believed was simply some lingering soreness in his right hamstring to suit up against the Miami Heat.
It wasn't until team physician Dr. Brian McKeon examined Rondo -- this after the team went through a walkthrough on Sunday morning -- that the full extent of the injury was discovered. Up until that point, Rondo simply believed he had a hamstring issue.
“It means he’s pretty tough," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who endured an ACL injury during his playing days with the Knicks. "I know when I tore mine, I was crying on the floor like a little baby. He actually thought it was his hamstring. He was telling me he thought he pulled his hamstring. And Dr. McKeon, fortunately, right before the game, he got here and Rondo was telling him his hamstring was bothering him and he said, ‘Let me check it.’"
A mere 24 minutes before tip-off, Rondo was scratched from the lineup and taken to New England Baptist Hospital for a set of MRIs that confirmed the team's worst fears: a torn ACL.
"Complete shock. He was going to try to play [on Sunday]," Avery Bradley said. "Rondo's tough, man. You couldn't tell he was really hurt. He was getting treatment, but Rondo doesn't show it. He just wants to battle. That's why we love going to battle with him every single day, every single game, because he gives his all no matter what."
"He's known to play through injuries, but, unfortunately, this is one injury that he's definitely not going to be able to play through," Paul Pierce said. "We know that if Rondo can suit up, he's going to suit up. So when he didn't suit up today it was pretty significant."
Assuming Rondo suffered the torn ACL in the final two minutes of regulation on Friday, here's his stat line from the final 12 minutes in Atlanta: 1-of-5 shooting, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 turnovers and 2 fouls. Given the nature of the injury, that's rather insane.
Kevin Garnett detailed Rondo's toughness and went out of his way to advise his friend to avoid rushing back.
"Rajon’s played through a lot of different things that you guys have no idea about nor will I share," Garnett said. "And, after the game, we’d kind of look at him and be like, ‘What are you doing?’ In Sacramento [playing through a hip injury in December], he shouldn’t have even played that game. ... He’s a tough kid, I learned that the first day I got here. It’s no surprise, that’s why the first thing I said to him was, 'Don’t play hero. You’re a human being, take care of yourself.'
"That was the first thing I told him: 'Do not play Superman, take care of yourself. I know you think you're young, you’re not that young.'"