Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m at my best when I’m in transition’
|03.01.12 at 1:36 am ET|
For whatever reason, 26-year-old Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and the aging Big Three haven’t been on the same page all season. Hence the team’s 17-17 record. Whether that’s the result of the All-Star point guard’s stubbornness or the unwillingness of three Hall of Famers to follow a younger, better leader or any number of other reasons is free to debate.
But one thing is certain: When Rondo plays the way he did in a 102-96 win over the Bucks Wednesday, recording his third double-double of the season while orchestrating the offense to near perfection, these Celtics might actually have a chance to salvage this season.
“We did a better job executing offensively tonight,” said Rondo (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), as usual simplifying the game to its most basic elements. “We got into our sets, and we executed — and we scored.”
Paul Pierce knows it. Kevin Garnett knows it. And Doc Rivers knows it. When Rondo runs the floor and sets the table early, he puts everyone in a better position to win ballgames.
“He got us organized earlier,” said Rivers. “The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that’s who we were, and that’s who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo’s doing.”
“I think I’m the best, or I’m at my best when I’m in transition,” added Rondo. “So, if we get stops, we’re able to get easy looks in transition for myself and for my teammates.”
Sounds simple, right? Not so much. While Rivers & Co. might understand their success depends on Rondo’s ability to balance his distribution of the ball with his faculty for finding the rim, that knowledge isn’t always realized as execution on the floor. Take Rondo’s zero points and five turnovers against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night as Exhibits A and B.
“It’s not just me,” said Rondo. “It’s a team effort. Our bigs gave a great show, the guards sunk in, and there are nights when you don’t hit a bucket. Obviously, that was [Tuesday] night for me. It’s just part of the game. We’re all human. Some nights you’re going to have it, some nights you’re not.”
Both Garnett and Pierce more than alluded to that inconsistency as a source of frustration.
- Garnett: “Rondo’s pace is important for us. When Rajon is in control of the ball, and he’s not only rebounding but getting guys open shots and scoring the ball himself, it makes us a hard team to deal with. Consistently is always a question mark that I always like to bring into play, but man when he’s open like that and he has open court, it’s hard to stop us.”
- Pierce: “On both ends of the court, he played tremendous. He did a great job of shutting down Brandon Jennings. When he’s out there getting rebounds, passing and doing everything for us, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Rondo went head-to-head with Jennings and left little doubt as to who’s the better fellow Oak Hill Academy alum, holding the Bucks point guard to just six points on 2-of-11 shooting (two late 3-pointers saved a shutout).
Whether he was rising to that challenge, inspired by another slew of trade rumors or finally meshing with his teammates midway through this season, the Celtics got good Rondo for another night and were reminded of what consistency could mean for this team.
And Rondo knows it. As he said, “You pretty much said it.”