Jim Mancari, SNYNets.com
I would never wish injury to any player on any team. This is a player’s livelihood we are talking about, and I would never want that to be seriously compromised.
However, I do understand that injuries are part of the game, and major injuries can happen at inopportune times.
This past Sunday, the world found out that Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and since then, multiple reports out of Boston say the Celtics have been trying to determine whether to fight with the remainder of their core or begin the rebuilding process it delayed last summer.
This is relevant to the Nets, though, because the Celtics should no longer be able to compete with them and the Knicks for the division crown. Now, it should all be a two horse race.
But that will only be the case if the Nets manage to start beating some of the conference's tougher teams on a more consistent basis.
The Celtics have been hovering around the .500 mark all season after last year’s appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. The team hasn’t hit its groove, to say the least. Even with Rondo, their inconsistent play has precluded an extended run of success. And at 22-23, they are the epitome of mediocre.
Boston recently enjoyed a six-game winning streak only to follow it up with a six-game losing streak. The Celtics earned a gutsy win Sunday at home against the Miami Heat and followed it up with a victory over the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 30.
But not having Rondo for the rest of the season may lead to the Celtics’ downfall. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce aren’t youngsters anymore, and they fed off Rondo’s energy.
Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley will be expected to fill in for Rondo, but even these players combined will have a tough time matching Rondo’s output.
Enter the Nets, who are 4.5 games ahead of the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
If the season ended today, the Celtics would be the eighth seed in the east, while the Nets would own the No. 4 slot.
Obviously, it’s hard to predict playoff scenarios at this point in the season, but despite their struggles this season, no one was ruling out the Celtics from making a deep postseason run.
With Rondo, Pierce and Garnett, “Anything is Possible!!!”
However, no more Rondo will make it difficult for the Celtics to find the rhythm they’ve been searching for all season.
Of course, the Celtics still cannot be counted out completely, but from the Nets perspective, it might be one less team to worry about long-term this season. The games still must be played on the court – not on paper – but unless they can go on a miracle run, the Celtics are no longer a huge threat.
Still, the Nets need to put the poor performances and lackluster efforts behind them completely. After being dismantled by the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the Nets should have all the motivation they need to put together a strong effort.
In the NBA, we see it all the time. A star player gets hurt and somehow, miraculously, his team pulls off an upset over an opponent. One such game that comes to mind was the Knicks Dec. 6 win at Miami. Even without Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks managed to defeat the Heat by 20 points.
In this league, teams have the propensity to take their foot off the gas when the star player from the opponent's team gets hurt.
This season, the Nets have coasted enough. As a team, they should realize the opportunity they have to rise up in the conference.
Hopefully, for Nets fans, it will begin tonight.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.