They are a winning duo, one that accommodates each other’s strengths and weaknesses, plays like two heads of the same body and can always be trusted when the game is on the line.
At least, they are in theory.
Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley should be the perfect backcourt partnership, although they haven’t gotten much of a chance to prove it. In four years as teammates with the Boston Celtics, the two have been active at the same time for a total of 56 games. The difficulty of getting the two starting-caliber guards on the floor at the same time isn’t lost on first-year coach Brad Stevens.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to see (them playing) quite a bit in the last month or so here,” Stevens said. “Obviously, knock on wood, because they haven’t gotten a chance to play much over their first four years together. I think it’s really a duo that you would think would complement each other very well, based on their strengths at either end of the floor.”
This season has been the greatest struggle of all for Rondo and Bradley. Rondo has missed 47 out of 68 games recovering from and later resting a torn ACL. Bradley has missed 19 games, including 13 straight in February and March, with ankle injuries. If they both play in every game remaining — which they won’t — they will have suited up for 18 games together this season.
However, at least three more back-to-backs remain, meaning Rondo is likely to sit out at least three more games. On Monday in Dallas, as in the second leg of every back-to-back since his return in January, Rondo was on the bench in street clothes.
The issue of getting Rondo and Bradley on the floor together is more than just academic. Bradley, 23, is eligible for restricted free agency after the season, with a $3.6 million qualifying offer, according to ShamSports. Rondo will have his final offseason under contract with the Celtics before potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015. The Celtics don’t just want to see Rondo and Bradley play together out of curiosity. They need to see what they can do to weigh the duo’s feasibility as a building block.
Rondo, seldom flustered by anything, doesn’t sound worried.
“Our time will come,” Rondo said. “I’ve missed (games), he’s missed (games). Soon, hopefully, we both can get it together, and we’ll both be out there playing and healthy.”
A lot of the talk heading into this pivotal offseason has centered around what moves the Celtics plan to make for their future. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to be active in the draft, free agency and trades. But just as crucial as the potential moves is establishing what the team has in its current incarnation — whether Rondo and Bradley are the first step toward banner 18 or an experiment that didn’t so much fail as never got a chance to be tested.