Rajon Rondo’s Torn ACL Set Celtics On Difficult Journey To NBA Draft Lottery

Rajon RondoSo, here we are. In one day, the Boston Celtics will learn where their 2014 NBA draft lottery pick will land. Not that anything becomes much clearer after that.

Regardless of which draft slot the Celtics end up with after Tuesday, their fate is far from determined. Learning where they will pick is only the latest step in a winding rebuilding journey for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Before we look forward, however, let’s look back on how the Celtics got here.

Jan. 25, 2013: Rajon Rondo tears ACL. The Celtics were not having an easy time before Rondo felt something pop in his hamstring during an overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The defeat was the Celtics’ sixth straight and dropped their record to 20-23, but they didn’t receive the really bad news until two days later, when news broke during a win over the Miami Heat that Rondo had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

May 3, 2013: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks knock Celtics out of playoffs. Paul Pierce’s performance was painful to watch, not only because it might have been his final game in green. He shot 4-for-18 from the field and committed five turnovers — tied with Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green for the game’s high — and Boston’s season ended short of the conference semifinals for the first time since 2007.

Without Rondo, the Celtics were eaten alive in the pick and roll by Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. Ainge had hung on to his aging core for the last several seasons, hoping to wring one last title out of them. But with Pierce and Garnett looking tired and Rondo set to miss a good chunk of the 2013-14 season, Ainge began to rethink the franchise’s future.

June 25, 2013: Doc Rivers joins Los Angeles Clippers. As the wheels turned inside Ainge’s head, Rivers recognized the shift in philosophy. After nine years on the Boston bench, Rivers was not eager to go through another rebuilding phase, and the Clippers appeared ready to contend. Following an arduous negotiating process, the Celtics finally agreed to release Rivers from the final three years of his contract in exchange for a 2016 first-round draft pick.

June 27, 2013: Celtics agree to trade that sends Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett to Nets. Boston’s drafting of Kelly Olynyk was easily overshadowed by reports on draft night that the Celtics had agreed to bid farewell to two more franchise icons. Although the details were hazy at first, the upshot was that Pierce and Garnett were heading to Brooklyn. The rebuild was underway.

July 3, 2013: Brad Stevens hired as coach. Keeping with the offseason trend of shocking changes, the Celtics pulled off the tough task of announcing their new coaching hire without anyone leaking the information to the media. Stevens, who many believed had a lifelong position promised had he stayed at Butler, signed a six-year, $22-million deal to come to Boston.

July 12, 2013: Celtics, Nets officially complete trade. League rules prevented the teams from making it official for two weeks, but Celtics fans finally were forced to accept reality. The Celtics announced they were trading Pierce, Garnett, Jason Terry and D.J. White to the Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, three first-round draft picks and the right to swap picks in 2017.

Oct. 30, 2013: New-look Celtics open season. A starting five of Green, Wallace, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Vitor Faverani helped the Celtics lose to the Raptors 93-87, the first of four straight losses. The Celtics lost eight of their first 12 games, but held onto first place for the better part of a month thanks to divisionwide struggles in the Atlantic.

Jan. 14, 2014: Keith Bogans excused from team. In the lone instance of dissension within the ranks, the veteran guard was dismissed after reportedly challenging Stevens in front of the team.

Jan. 17, 2014: Rondo returns to lineup. Less than a year after tearing his ACL, Rondo came off the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers. He scored eight points and dished out four assists.

April 16, 2014: Celtics conclude season at 25-57, the third-worst record in franchise history. Losing 16 of their last 19 games, the Celtics assured themselves a prime spot in the draft lottery. But two straight wins in early April pushed them into a tie with the Utah Jazz, forcing a coin flip to determine who received the fourth-best odds in the lottery.

April 18, 2014: Celtics lose coin flip. By losing the coin flip (actually, a random drawing) with Utah, the Celtics lost more than just one numerical combination in the 2014 lottery. They also went from being assured a top-seven pick to a top-eight pick, and lost all statistical ability to get the No. 4 pick.

May 20, 2014: ??? After a year of painful watching and waiting, Celtics fans find out whether it was all worth it and hope the lottery balls will finally bounce their way.

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