What is next for Celtics without Rondo?

Daniel Shirey/USA TodayTime has allowed the news to sink in for Boston. It was a shock Sunday afternoon when the team announced All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo would miss the remainder of the year after tearing his ACL. The look of shock on Paul Pierce's face when Doris Burke informed him of Rondo's injury was gut-wrenching. As was the brief glimpse fans got of Doc Rivers walking with Rondo toward the locker room following Boston's overtime win over Miami.

The Celtics have yet to play since the announcement that Rondo would be out. There is no telling what the emotion will be like when the Celtics take on the Kings on Wednesday at TD Garden.

It is not like the Celtics have not played without Rondo. They did, after all, defeat the Heat in double overtime after Rondo was pulled from the lineup literally moments before the opening tip.

The question the Celtics face now is what kind of team will they be without Rondo? Rondo had become the focal point of the team's offense — averaging 13.7 points per game and a league-high 11.1 assists per game. Rondo accounts for a lot of the Celtics' offense and they will now have to rely on their defense much, much more.

That is what Boston is supposedly built on defense and that is where the team is excelling, ranking seventh in the league in defensive rating while they are 28th even with Rondo in offensive rating.

What might be most alarming in losing Rondo is that Boston needs that offensive boost, sitting at 21-23 and eighth in the Eastern Conference. While the Celtics are three games ahead of the 76ers for the final Playoff spot. While Doc Rivers is not ready to stick a fork in the season and there are a lot of proud veterans on the roster, the thought of beginning a rebuild cannot be far from Danny Ainge's mind. 

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images/ZimbioThis Celtics team is built for championships. That is what guys like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce expect. That is why Jason Terry signed on and why the Celtics have taken on the seventh highest payroll in the league and have $52 million committed already for 2015.

This is a franchise stuck with the current roster they have. And with Rondo out, you imagine things will get worse and not better.

So the question has become: Should the Celtics blow up their roster and start from scratch, preparing for Rondo's return next season?

Doing that in itself will not be easy. Boston has $15.3 million tied up in Paul Pierce for one more year and more than $23.5 million tied up in Kevin Garnett for the next two seasons. Both are older than 35 years old and no one is quite sure how much quality basketball they have left. And nobody is quite sure what value they might have in the trade market. Or even if Boston is willing to trade two guys that have become Celtics legends.

These are not easy decisions for Danny Ainge. And there virtually cannot be any major change to the roster without moving one of these big-name players because of all the money wrapped into the role players — like Brandon Bass' $13.6 million for the next two years, nearly $18 million in Jeff Green for the next two years and $10.6 million in Jason Terry. All three of those players have question marks.

If you cannot tell from those statements, Boston's plan appeared to be to be ready to make a big move in free agency in the summer of 2015 with the tons of cap room they would have from Pierce and Garnett coming off the books.

Does Ainge abandon that plan in the face of Rondo's injury? Does he speed it up and bring in a big-name player like Rudy Gay to keep Boston competitive?

It is still pretty unclear what the Celtics will do. They will likely weigh their options carefully in the next three weeks before the trade deadline and make a decision on the future of the franchise.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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