And just like that, a decorated All-Star career is derailed for up to a year, while a mutli-titled NBA team's hopes for another championship is violently crushed.
Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) looks to pass as he is pressured by Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston on Friday, Jan. 18. At right are Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Bulls center Joakim Noah. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
As news of Rajon Rondo's devastating right knee injury trickled out of Boston and into our streams of consciousness yesterday, we are all reminded of how the fickle finger of fate can quickly change our lives. We know that too well out here in the Windy City, where Derrick Rose tore his right knee's anterior cruciate ligament last April, turning the dreams of beating the Miami Heat into the nightmare of a first-round playoffs loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But with the passing of time, the embrace of patience, and a stroke good fortune, the Bulls appear in terrific shape nearly 10 months after that horrific mishap.
Fiscally, the Bulls have never been more robust. According to Forbes.com, the franchise is now worth $800 million, a staggering $200 million increase from last year's value.
Competitively, the 26-17 Bulls are on top of the Central Division and third overall in the Eastern Conference, which is presently dominated by the 28-13 Miami Heat.
And thanks to the basketball gods, Rose's recuperation and rehabilitation have not hit a snag while most of the other Bulls on the roster didn't sustain major hurts, just some minor nicks and bruises here and there. Expected to take part in full-contact practice this Tuesday, Rose could be officially back in a Bulls uniform by late February.
At age 26 and given his tremendous work ethic, the prognosis is good for the 6-foot-1, 186-pound Rondo to recover the same way the 24-year-old and equally-dedicated Rose has.
Sadly, though, the same perky outlook doesn't reflect on the shell-shocked Boston Celtics.
Without Rondo, "the heart and soul of the team," according to Kevin Garnett, the Cetlics' playoffs chances are effectively killed.
Boston currently holds the 8th and last playoffs spot in the Eastern Conference, but with a mere 21-23 record, the vultures – the 18-25 Sixers, the 16-27 Pistons and even the 16-28 Raptors – are circling.
Beyond this season, Boston's future is heartbreakingly bleak because unlike the Bulls, who have a very young core group of guys, the Celtics have more senior citizens than a church bingo hall.
It might not be a bad idea for the Celtics to implode the team now, shed the old-timers and bring in younger, fresher talents to run with Rondo when he comes back in a year or so.
But even if Danny Ainge, Celtics' president of basketball operations, reluctantly chooses that path, getting rid of Garnett and Paul Pierce will be immensely difficult given the weight and length of their existing contract.
You see, Garnett's playing minutes are diminishing, and so are his returns – 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, a far cry from his career averages of 19.2 and 10.5. Now here's the rub, although still feisty and relatively nimble at 36, KG makes $11.5 million this year and owed another $23.5 in two years.
Pierce's decline is a little less pronounced. His scoring has only dropped from a career average of 21.9 to 18.8 while his shooting percentage dipped from 44.3 percent to 42 percent. But the truth is, Pierce is now 35 and his paycheck tends to make NBA owners run for the hills – $16.7 million this year plus $15.3 million next year.
Although this torn ACL will certainly not end Rondo's career, it will definitely end the era of the modern Boston Celtics as we knew them
Ray Allen has left for Miami. And even if KG and Pierce won't be traded by the February 21 deadline, they would both be a year older next year, more likely to be another victims of the ravages of time.
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Funny how time works. While it may heal Rondo's wounds, it cannot heal the aging Boston Celtics.