|Irish Coffee: Just how bad did Rajon Rondo want out?||12.30.14 at 12:23 pm ET|
Despite his league-leading assists average, former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo wasn’t the player over the past season we came to know during three trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2008-12. That much is certain.
Rondo’s true shooting dipped to an alarmingly low level in 2014-15 (career-worst 42.2 percent), and his performance on the other end was no longer all-defensive worthy. As a result, the Celtics proved better both offensively and defensively without him on the court, per Basketball Reference.
While Rondo’s decline at the age of 28 appeared a result of a player once reliant on slicing and scrapping his way into the restricted area still struggling to recover both physical and mentally from a serious knee injury, there have been rumblings in the fortnight since his trade that the regression might have been the result of another factor entirely: Effort.
“He’s always up to stuff when he’s locked in, and I think that’s the guy that Dallas is getting,” Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons told writer Zach Lowe during their podcast last week. “In Boston, he would just give up the ball and just stand there, and I do think they had to trade him. It was too bad that was the way it worked out, not just from what we were seeing from the games, but from what I was hearing. In practice, when you have your guy who’s the unquestioned best guy on the team and the quote unquote ‘leader’ of the team, and he’s just not going hard in practice at all, that puts a coach who is trying to get through to young players in a really bad spot. And I think they knew they had to trade him.”
That’s new information, and while some hearsay can be discarded as the customary smear campaigning from Boston teams in the wake of major trades, Simmons’ sources aren’t the only ones dropping hints.
|With Rajon Rondo gone, Marcus Smart still isn’t quite ready to be ‘the guy’ yet||12.26.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.
Smart worked hard Friday (5 points, 6 assists in 31 minutes) but it wasn’t enough in the end as the Celtics fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107.
“A lot of confidence, actually,” Smart said. “It just shows I’m getting back to the player that I was in the preseason and getting back to what this team needs, energy-wise, on the defensive end, and just trying to help my team.”
But asked if he’s ready to assume the role of Rondo, Smart stopped short of that complete commitment.
“Not really. I don’t feel like there’s a guy on this team,” Smart said. “Everybody’s the guy because you never know on any given night, it can be somebody’s night.
“It’s a lot. It’s a lot that comes with it but obviously, I’ve done a lot in my life and throughout my whole career through basketball to prepare me for this type of situation and to just to do whatever I can to help this team come out with victories.”
Still, only at 20, he’s earning the respect of his peers around the NBA. Take Kevin Garnett. KG fell on top of him while scrambling for a loose ball in the third quarter. After Smart got the ball ahead on the break, Garnett tapped him on the backside for his hustle on the floor. Afterward, Garnett said he was “trying to trip his ass.”
“Knowing KG, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Smart said. “The guy goes hard. That’s who KG is and that’s why a lot of guys respect him.”
Smart could laugh because he’s becoming more and more comfortable assuming command of his team.
‘Felt very comfortable. Practiced the other day helped that. Went over some plays and getting guys in the right spots so I was able to know where guys were going to be and try to find them today.’
Smart found out on Christmas Day that he was starting on Friday.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] called me before practice and told me that I was going to be starting and just to keep bringing the energy,” Smart said.
“Both, practice time and conditioning. With an injury you tend to sit on the sideline and your conditioning goes and its easy to get out of shape then it is to get into shape. Getting those minutes and practice time has put me back into the shape that I was in in the preseason.’
|Report: Julius Randle’s exclusion stalled Rondo-to-Lakers talks||12.23.14 at 3:46 pm ET|
In his weekly power rankings, Yahoo! Sports reporter Marc Spears dropped an interesting nugget.
Likewise, USA Today’s Sam Amick reported an offer that would have sent Jordan Hill, a first-rounder and presumably Nash to Boston in exchange for Rondo and Jeff Green going back to L.A. (although Hill owns Bird rights approval of a trade and can’t be dealt until Jan. 15).
Either way, it’s noteworthy that the Celtics discussed trading their captain to the rival Lakers before ultimately sending him to Dallas. The trade talks also suggest Rondo’s breakfast with Kobe Bryant during the Lakers’ most recent visit to Boston was more than “just two [expletives] having breakfast.” It would’ve been fascinating had the Lakers been willing to include Randle in a potential deal.
|Rajon Rondo thanks Boston on way out of town||12.19.14 at 9:03 am ET|
Rajon Rondo, who was singing Christmas carols with his Celtics teammates at Boston Children’s Hospital on the evening he was traded to the Mavericks, expressed heartfelt gratitude for his time in the city in a series of tweets.
“My time in Boston has meant so much,” he wrote. “I’ve grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched. My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best. I’ve experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans and city.
“The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk [Nowitzki], Monta [Ellis], Tyson [Chandler] and the young talent of Chandler [Parsons] is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.”
|Report: Rajon Rondo ‘open’ to re-signing with Mavs, Rockets if dealt||12.18.14 at 9:43 am ET|
The news is trickling out in waves now, and the latest on the possibility of the Celtics trading Rajon Rondo comes from CBSSports.com columnist Ken Berger, who reports the C’s captain is ‘open’ to re-signing with the two teams rumored to be in hottest pursuit of his services — the Mavericks and Rockets.
While Rondo expressed publicly his desire to remain in Boston following Wednesday’s game, he’s apparently reached a point privately we had not heard in years past. The writing, as they say, appears to be on the wall.
In his weekly interview with CBS Sports Radio, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge conceded there have been trade discussions with multiple teams, as there always are at this time of year — while not specifically citing the rumored Dallas and Houston interest — didn’t exactly give his point guard a ringing endorsement when asked if the team would be all that different without Rondo.
“I don’t know,” said Ainge, stumbling for phraseology. “That’s a good question. Rajon has been a big part of our team, not just this year, but for the past years, as you know, but Rondo — because we don’t really see what Marcus Smart has been able to do yet, because he hasn’t been healthy; he’s got such a shortage of minutes and opportunities to play with the ankle sprain, so it’s a good question. I don’t think any of us know the answer to that.”
The wheels are turning, and Rondo getting out when they stop seems more likely than ever before.
|Rajon Rondo on trade rumors: ‘It’s a way of life’||12.17.14 at 11:45 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo knows the deal by now.
Every year around this time, the trade rumors start swirling around the Celtics point guard, and this season is no different.
“It’s a way of life since I’ve been here,” he said after Wednesday’s win over the Magic. “It’s just part of it.”
Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, as he so often does, peppered Twitter with a few freshly ground spices as Rondo wrapped up another near triple-double effort — the Mavericks “are serious suitors” for Rondo’s services.
In his postgame press conference, Rondo said he had not spoken to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about the latest round of rumors, and then proceeded to walk out of TD Garden just as Ainge, Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren and co-owner Stephen Pagliuca were exiting the building. It might’ve been awkward had it not been a way of life.
While the Celtics seem willing to part with Rondo for the right price, Rondo reiterated publicly his desire to stay in Boston.
“How many times do you want me to say it?” he asked. “We discussed it on media day. My thoughts and my opinions as far as the organization hasn’t changed, so … I’m enjoying life. You can’t win ‘em all, but these guys are funny, I’m young and I’m doing what I love to do. It’s a dream come true. I can’t be upset about anything, really.
“I just want to be a better person each year, be a better teammate each year, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job so far, just trying to lead these young guys. I’m not that old, but they make me feel like it.”
If something seems different about the rumors this time around, Rondo is remaining as poker-faced as ever.
“It is what it is now, and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I believe in certain timing and things happening for a reason, so I’m 28 and I’m pretty much the veteran guy on this team and that’s part of it.”
|Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v5.0||12.16.14 at 1:04 pm ET|
Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.
RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE
During a dismal week in which the Celtics lost to the Hornets and Knicks before snapping a three-game skid with a wire-to-wire win over the hapless 76ers, here are Rondo’s three-game totals: 19 points (9-17 field goals, 0-3 3-point range, 1-2 free throws), 27 assists (8 turnovers), 24 rebounds and six steals. He was a minus-26 in 88 minutes.
And here are the combined totals for opposing point guards Kemba Walker, Jose Calderon and Michael Carter-Williams: 40 points (14-36 FG, 3-10 3P, 9-12 FT), 20 assists (9 turnovers), 13 boards and six steals. They were plus-20 in 98 minutes.
Not great, even if Rondo submitted his third triple-double of the season against Charlotte. While he owned a superior true shooting percentage (53.1 vs. 48.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.38 vs. 2.22) with more rebounds and the same number of steals, the C’s captain should wipe the floor with that trio.
As if we expected to solve Rondo over the first six weeks of the 2014-15 season, he remains an enigma. Should he continue averaging 10.6 assists, 8.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over 82 games, Rondo will join Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to produce those numbers. Yet, he ranks among the league’s worst shooters from mid-range (30.2 percent), 3-point range (24.1 percent) and the free throw line (33.3 percent).
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