Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Practice: Moving on without Rondo
By Greg Payne
WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics took the practice floor on Tuesday for the first time since news that All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo would miss the remainder of the season with a torn right ACL struck the team on Sunday afternoon. The initial shock of losing their top playmaker hit the C's hard, but Boston knows it must gather itself and continue with the 2012-2013 campaign.
"To be honest with everybody here, I think everybody after Sunday was in a fog almost, like almost stop playing, stop bull----ing, kind of type of thing and just settling in," Kevin Garnett said. "I think everybody's trying to put their arms around the concept that [Rondo's] actually hurt -- hurt to the point where he can't play. And I think that's what's got everybody kind of like bewildered or in a fog, if you will. Even him.
"I think he came in this morning, seeing him in there, and it was kind of just unreal. But, the fact is that it is real and, like I said, everyone's going to consolidate and pick up the pieces and try to carry this thing."
Garnett added later: "I think we have to [come together as a team]. I think we have to. To pick up the responsibility of one man, yeah, I think we have to."
Paul Pierce echoed Garnett's thoughts on the Celtics coming together as a team for the second half of the season.
"It's very important. We've been feeling that way, even before Rondo got hurt," Pierce said. "We wanted to come together a little bit more, especially with the way we've been playing. But probably now even more so than ever. The chips are really stacked against us when you don't have your best player out there. But it's time to give other guys other opportunities to try to step up and elevate their game. And I know they're capable of doing it."
Pierce made it clear that Rondo can't be replaced by any one person on the team, while stressing the importance of players taking on greater responsibilities.
"You don't really replace a guy like Rondo. It's hard to replace All-Star guards," Pierce said. "So, it has to come from different guys probably expanding certain people's roles. Asking some other players to do what they haven't probably been doing all year, which they're going to have the opportunity to do now. So, I think we definitely have the talent to do that. I mean, we've shown it in a couple games where we've played without [Rondo]. It's just about probably maintaining it now for a longer period of time than just one or two games."
Without Rondo on the floor seeing the game develop and calling the necessary plays, head coach Doc Rivers will likely simplify his club's offense. The Celtics still have a wealth of talented guards like Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Avery Bradley and Leandro Barbosa in their rotation, though none of them is a traditional point guard. Still, Boston isn't bracing for a "by committee" approach to the ball-handling duties with Rondo out. Instead, they'll try to embrace not having a true point guard.
"It's just basketball. There's no point guard," Rivers said. "It's just basketball by committee."
Read on for more notes from Tuesday's pre-practice access, including on how Barbosa is ready to step up, whether Lee and Sullinger will stay in the starting lineup, and Pierce's thoughts on his future.
BARBOSA READY TO STEP UP
Leandro Barbosa is one player whose role is expected to increase with Rondo out. Barbosa has been hoping for more playing time all season, and while he said he hasn't had any specific conversations with Rivers about where he now fits in, we expect his minutes to increase. He stressed that he's ready to take on more responsibility, but added that he isn't looking to be the player Rondo is.
"I'm not Rajon Rondo. I'm Leandro Barbosa," said Barbosa. "So, my game is totally different than his game and for what he does for the team. As far as myself, what I can do for the team, for sure, is my best. I'm going to try to do (my best). Doc will talk to me about what he needs from me and we'll see how it goes."
Barbosa has played significant point guard minutes in past seasons, though, particularly when he was backing up former MVP Steve Nash on the Phoenix Suns.
"I would say almost my whole career, especially when I was with the Phoenix Suns, I was playing a lot of point guard [behind] Steve Nash, and I think most of the time it was in Phoenix," Barbosa said. "I do a lot of [Brazilian] national teams, too. I don't know if that's the role I'm going to have -- a point guard situation -- but if it is, I will try to do my best."
LEE, SULLINGER WILL CONTINUE TO START
Courtney Lee started in place of Rondo against the Miami Heat on Sunday and Rivers said Tuesday that will remain the case moving forward. Additionally, Rivers will continue to start rookie forward Jared Sullinger, who replaced the struggling Brandon Bass in the first unit on Sunday.
PIERCE NOT LOOKING TO LEAVE BOSTON
As soon as word of Rondo's injury spread throughout the league on Sunday, speculation mounted that director of basketball operations Danny Ainge would make substantial changes to the Celtics' roster. Ainge has since downplayed those ideas, but one of the first names to come up as a potential trade chip was Pierce, who reiterated -- as he always seems to have to when the trade deadline approaches -- that he wants to retire as a Boston Celtic.
"I want to retire as a Celtic," Pierce said. "That's been my longtime goal. But it's not in my control. The organization, they make their decisions. But that's something I've desired since being here."