We are spending some time looking back over the Boston Celtics championship season… in an effort to truly appreciate the efforts of those involved. In our tenth installment of the series, we continue saluting our starters.
Two years ago, all the draft talk was about guys like Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. Names like Marcus Williams and Ronnie Brewer came to Boston to work out for the Celtics. But we kept hearing about this kid named Rondo from Kentucky. It was always a few big names and then that Rondo guy.
It didn’t take long to figure out why Danny Ainge wanted this kid so badly. You could see right away that he had all the physical tools to become a great point guard, but he had to work on a few things. He needed to learn the offense… he needed to take charge a little more… and he need to work on that shot.
Oh, that jump shot.
But then this year rolled around, and we noticed something funny about Rajon’s shot. It was going in.
His shooting percentage jumped from 41.8% to 49.2%. His scoring average went from 6.4 ppg to 10.6 ppg. His biggest weakness was slowly being eliminated. And is there any better indicator of maturity than a young player showing up after his rookie year with his biggest weakness obviously addressed?
Rondo showed up as a kid who should have been going into his junior year… and he had been handed the task of leading “The Big 3.” It would have made sense for him to crumble a little. To come out tentatively. To be too star-struck sharing the court with mega-stars.
But he thrived. He took charge right away. Not only did he run the offense… he told guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett where to go when they were trying to break the play. My favorite Rondo moments weren’t just the dunk on Maxiell or breaking Steve Nash’s ankles… they were also every time he’d vehemently wave Paul or KG away. Rondo was in total control.
He was in total control against the league’s best point guards, too. He’s not quite in the “all around” class of a Derron Williams or Chris Paul… but those guys learned the hard way that Rondo is in the class photo when you’re talking about the best young point guards in the NBA. Chris Paul deserved all the MVP love he was getting, but Rajon Rondo toasted him… regularly. He was burning CP3 so much, Byron Scott had switch Jannero Pargo onto him.
And Rondo might be the best rebounding point guard in the NBA… especially on the offensive boards. He not only slithers his way into the lane, he’s got the wing span and jumping ability to steal boards from unsuspecting bigs. Add that skill to his stifling defense… and Rondo won’t just round out to be a triple double threat… he might drop the occasional quadruple double throughout his career when other teams get particularly sloppy (he dropped a 6 steal game in Game 6 of the Finals… who’s to say he won’t get 4 more one day?).
It’s true that maybe the playoff spotlight might have worn on him a little away from home… but he didn’t get down on himself. Whatever his problems were on the road, they disappeared at home. When he was being aggressive, there was simply no stopping him. And all this from a second-year point guard. His progression from year one to year two was dramatic. I’m giddy about what the future holds. For now, we’ll be happy that our young floor general shut all the critics up. And for that, Rajon, we appreciate the job you’ve done in helping us achieve the ultimate goal… an NBA title.
(Getty Images photo)