When reports first came Sunday that Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had an ACL tear, the initial reaction was heavy skepticism. Rondo had finished the Celtics’ game against the Hawks just two days before, and he had been at the team’s shootaround Sunday morning. He was even walking around TD Garden as the C’s battled the Heat while he waited for the results of an MRI.
Within hours of Rondo being pulled from the game, though, the once-ludicrous suggestion that he could be gone for the season became fact. It was an ACL tear, and the already struggling Celtics would have to go on without the key cog in their championship-hopeful machine.
The news caught even Rondo by surprise. In the time running up to the diagnosis, he knew he was dealing with an injury, but he thought it was far less serious, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.
“He thought it was his hamstring,” Doc Rivers said Sunday of Rondo, who did not meet with the media. “He never said anything about his knee. At our shootaround, he had the [ice] pack on the back of his hamstring. Doc [Brian] McKeon took a look and started moving it around and said to me, ‘I’m telling you, that’s an ACL. I’m pretty sure.'”
Rondo continued to be skeptical even after returning to TD Garden after the MRI. He was walking around, and when MacMullan saw him and asked about the ACL speculation, he asked rhetorically whether he could walk and move that well if it was torn. MacMullan assured him that he could.
“I don’t feel that bad,” he told her. “I don’t feel like I have something that serious, but I’ve never had one before. All I know is my leg felt funny.”
When the news came, Rivers said his point guard was “shocked.” ACL tears require surgery, and they sideline players for at least a few months, if not an entire year.
“He can’t believe it’s torn,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told MacMullan. “He told me, ‘I’m done. Done for the year.’ It probably hasn’t hit him yet. … Rondo and [Kevin Garnett] are the heart of our team. Players like [Avery] Bradley and [Jared] Sullinger feed of them. It’s a big loss for us.”
No one is doubting the diagnosis anymore, or the impact that the loss of Rondo will have on the team.