Celtics coach Doc Rivers was more than a little alarmed Friday night when, with 4:54 left in the third quarter of the C's showdown with the Chicago Bulls, his point guard Rajon Rondo collided with Carlos Boozer and fell to the ground, clutching his leg. He could almost see his season flashing before his eyes.
"I thought he was actually hurt pretty bad," Rivers said. "I thought he tweaked his knee. So when he bounced back up, I was really happy about it."
Rondo took a while to get back up, but once he did, he reassured Rivers and his 18,000 fans right away. Fifteen seconds after taking the hard foul from Boozer, Rondo drained a jumper from 22 feet out to give the Celtics a 17-point lead at 74-57. The C's didn't look back — not at Rondo's knee, and not at the Bulls. It was a good night on both fronts.
But scary moments like 4:54 in the third quarter Friday have a way of reminding the Celtics of their own mortality. Everything is going great right now for the C's, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference at 15-4, but one freak accident can change everything.
The C's have already been through plenty of injuries this season — from Jermaine O'Neal's knee, to Delonte West's wrist, to countless other nagging little things up and down the roster. But when Rondo went down, the C's were faced with the possibility that their floor leader would be the next casualty.
"It was a scary moment for everybody, man," Kevin Garnett said. "Scary moment for everybody. But he's a tough cookie, and he bounced back. That's what he does."
"Any time your point guard hits the ground, it's always a scary moment," added Paul Pierce. "He's the key to what we?re doing, so I?m just glad he?s healthy. I know he?s battling a lot of injuries right now, and we just hope he gets through it."
Rondo's first month has been checkered with minor health concerns. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that his feet were sore due to a chronic case of plantar fasciitis. Then, he missed a week with a strained hamstring. Then Friday, he fell and hurt his knee.
It's always something with Rondo. His wild, aggressive style of play gets him into a lot of sticky situations. If he played it safe, he wouldn't be Rondo.
Of all his injury concerns, the foot problem is the most troubling. Plantar fasciitis can be a recurring problem that's difficult to stave off.
"It's always going to be the foot," Rivers said. "The hamstring is healed, but the foot is something that's always going to be a concern. We just have to watch it. Right now it's not a big concern, honestly, but we just have to make sure it stays that way."
This will be a trying season for Rondo. He's always been a talented athlete with a knack for leading the Celtics on both ends, but to do it while playing hurt, he's got to take it to another level.
But that's how it's been this season for the Celtics. Adversity comes their way, and they just keep fighting through it.
"We can?t wait for injuries," Rivers said. "We've just got to keep playing. Guys are going to be okay — we've just got to get through this stretch. You know, it's a tough little stretch, but the fact that we're winning games is really good for us. It's good for everybody."