The 2008 championship banner will hang above the court at the Garden until the building falls, but lost in its memory is a moment that could have changed the entire postseason.
The Celtics held a commanding 51-28 lead over the Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals when Rajon Rondo dribbled toward the net for a layup. Atlanta's Marvin Williams had other ideas, meeting the wiry point guard in mid-air, grabbing him by the neck and slamming him down on the court.
Ray Allen ran over, flashing a look of incredulity at Williams, as the 18,000 in attendance and millions watching at home wondered how this certain injury would affect the Celtics' title run.
Everyone was concerned except for Rondo himself, who took his time, got to his feet and nailed his free throws.
Would the Celtics still have been able to get through the Cavs, Pistons and Lakers without Rondo? Nobody can say for sure, but GM Danny Ainge doesn't want to find out.
After a summer of discussions — which at times appeared to be contentious — both Ainge and Rondo were all smiles at the team's media day Monday, with Ainge claiming to be committed to the 23-year-old for the long term.
"Our intention is to have Rondo as our franchise point guard for a decade, and I think Rondo wants to be here for a long time as well," Ainge told reporters, according to the Boston Herald. “These things are just about dollar amounts and have no bearing on our feeling about him or our intentions. We may do something in October, and we may do something next summer when we’ll have the ability to match. We’ll play it by ear. … I think it’s clear to everyone that he’s one player who can help us make a transition from where we are now and in the next couple of years to playing for the future.”
Standing at 6-foot-1, Rondo said he put on 11 pounds of muscle over the
summer, thanks in part to lifting weights and quitting McDonald's. He'll become a restricted free agent at the end of the season if he and the team don't reach an extension, but he said his main concern heading into the season is a championship, not a contract.
“It would be great if I could sign now, but the focus is the ring," he said. "I think about what happened last year when we didn’t win it — simple as that. The more wins I can get, the more chances I can get to play for a long time. I have an opportunity now to get a couple of rings while I’m still young."
He's right. With the Celtics, he's not only surrounded by terrific talent that makes the team a contender, he's also surrounded by experienced veterans whose focus and drive make them the favorites.