|Rondo eyes matchup with Westbrook||03.31.10 at 12:36 am ET|
For the past four years, Rajon Rondo has been catching the eyes of veteran point guards around the league as he developed into an All-Star. Now there is another up-and-coming player who has caught his attention.
Rondo has been impressed by the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
‘He’s a mature guy,’ Rondo said. ‘He’s running the show, he’s getting his main guy the ball, and at times he knows when to attack.’
In just his second season in the NBA, Westbrook is averaging over 16 points and ranks eighth in the league with 7.9 assists per game. (Rondo is fourth with 9.8 apg.) Many of those have been dished to teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Not only is Westbrook moving the ball, he also is helping his team win. The young Thunder squad currently holds the sixth seed in the Western Conference and has just two less wins than the Celtics this season.
On Wednesday, the C’s will look to push that differential up to three wins when they face the Thunder at TD Garden. Rondo knows he will have to buckle down on defense to stop Westbrook. Both players scored 15 points in their first meeting of the season (a Celtics win) in December.
‘[I have to] try to keep him in front of me, keep him out of transition,’ Rondo said. ‘He loves to attack in transition, so just try to keep between him and the basket.’
Rondo understands how to stop Westbrook for a reason. Prior to the his first All-Star appearance, Rondo pointed out Westbrook as the player in the Rookie-Sophomore game who reminds him most of himself. He drew similarities between their quickness and aggressiveness with the ball.
If it were up to Rondo, Westbrook would have been joining him on the court in Dallas.
‘I think he could’ve gotten into the All-Star Game this year too as well,’ Rondo said. ‘Hopefully he’ll make it next year. He got overlooked, but he’s definitely a good player.’
Even though Rondo and Westbrook are only in their early 20s, Rondo believes this matchup has the potential to become one to watch over the next few seasons.
‘You know you’ll be going against him for hopefully another six or seven years,’ he said.
|KG gives Rondo a pat on the back||03.27.10 at 12:06 am ET|
Maybe Kevin Garnett had the best perspective of all on the accomplishments of Rajon Rondo on Friday night. Not only did Rondo set a new career best with 18 assists in Boston’s 94-86 win over the Kings at TD Garden, the Celtics point guard set a new single-season steals mark with two in the game and 169 for the season.
“It’s a great accomplishment. He deserves a big pat on the back,” said Garnett, who promptly proceeded to take his left hand and give Rondo a playful shot to the ribs at the podium.
All of this while the Celtics were clinching their third straight Atlantic Division title.
‘I wasn’t even aware of that,” Garnett said. “I don’t think that anybody in the locker room said anything like that. I think tonight we were more appreciative of Rondo, and his accomplishments. Anytime you get any kind of record in this organization, on a team like what we have, is a huge thing. We are just of appreciative of being in the moment, being here, being a part of it. It is a very special moment, and no one even talked about the division title tonight. Tonight was Rondo’s night.”
Indeed it was. From the opening tip and continuing throughout a game that had the Celtics up 24 points five different times in the third quarter, Rondo set the tempo with another all-around great game. He now has 696 assists, just 19 shy of Bob Cousy’s mark in the 1959-60 season.
‘It may mean more to me once I retire or I am away from here,” Rondo said. “I am just focused on winning. It is a great accomplishment. This organization has won so many championships and has had some great players come through; so many all-stars have set records here, hopefully down the line another record. At the end of the day I am just trying to focus on getting wins and as an individual accomplishment, they come in the path of doing great things for the team.’
‘Any time you get any record, whether it be assists or steals, or rebounds,” Garnett added, “records don’t just fall in your lap. A great effort, and anticipation. I have never been nowhere near steals and all of that.”
Of course, part of the issue with Rondo has been that he sometimes gambles on defense, leaving his teammates to cover for him when the defense is left out of position.
“The anticipation is a gamble at times, but you know we understand Rondo’s game and we all do different things,” Garnett said. “We know that nine out of 10 times he is solid. He does gamble, eight out of 10 times he is right. The two we have to make up for, but at the same time when we mess up, he is there to help us, so it evens itself out at the end of the day. It’s a great accomplishment and a big pat on the back for him.’
Rondo is dishing the ball as well as he ever has and certainly is running the Celtics offense better than at any point during this season. In other words, he’s peaking at just the right time – with just 10 games left in the season.
‘Kevin made a lot of shots, Ray [Allen] made shots as well. The team made shots. I just try and give them the ball. Get easy position as much as possible, but what I was proud about were the turnovers, the turnover ratio,” said Rondo, who had 18 assists and just two turnovers. “I was just trying to take care of the ball. At times, I turned down a couple of shots because I was trying to pass it, but other than that, I was just happy taking care of the ball and keeping the turnovers down.’
|First half summary: Celtics vs. Kings||03.26.10 at 8:45 pm ET|
Thanks to the Rajon Rondo highlight show in the first half, the Celtics cruised to the locker room with a 57-37 halftime lead.
Rondo was credited with a steal midway through the second quarter, his 168th of the season, helping him pass Rick Fox for the all-time single-season Celtics mark.
He also had a remarkable 10 assists in the first 24 minutes to pass Sherman Douglas for second on the Celtics all-time single-season assist list. Douglas had 683 in the 1993-94 season and the way Rondo is playing, he should soon pass Bob Cousy’s 1959-60 mark of 715.
Several of those 10 assists went to Ray Allen, who had a game-high 18 points, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
The C’s held the Kings to just 17 points in the first quarter as they opened a 32-17 lead.
With his brother Marcus playing in the D-League for the Celtics in Maine, Carl Landry is putting on quite the show himself for the Kings in Boston. He has 18 to match Ray Allen for game honors so far.
The only bit of bad news was Nate Robinson turning his left ankle on a baseline drive to the basket. He suffered a sprain, left for the locker room in the second quarter and will not return.
|Doc on Rondo’s thievery: ‘He does have a gift’||at 8:00 pm ET|
The thing that has impressed Doc Rivers the most this year about Rajon Rondo’s single-season steals record is not the number itself but the effort behind it.
“That means he’s a better defender,” Rivers said. “You can lead the league in steals and not gamble all time. You can be solid and get a lot of steals and I think that’s what he’s done. With Rajon, you want to make sure he doesn’t hurt the team but he does have a gift and you always want to play to that gift as long as he’s not hurting the team.”
Rondo was credited with a steal midway through the second quarter, his 168th of the season, helping him pass Rick Fox for the all-time single-season Celtics mark. He had one more before halftime to give him 169.
He also had six assists in the first quarter to pass Sherman Douglas for second on the Celtics all-time single-season assist list with 684.
It appeared Rondo also stole the ball less than a minute into Friday’s game against Sacramento, which would have given him 168 for the season and a new single-season steals mark, passing Fox’s old mark of 167 in the 1996-97 season. But that steal was credited to Ray Allen, keeping Rondo momentarily tied with Fox.
|Rondo: ‘We’re starting to put it together’||03.25.10 at 12:05 am ET|
Echoing the thoughts of his general manager Danny Ainge on WEEI earlier in the day, Rajon Rondo can feel things finally start to come together for the Celtics.
And the timing couldn’t be any better.
While Paul Pierce led the team with 27 points, it was Rondo who was the floor general with his seventh career triple-double – fourth in the regular season – in Boston’s 113-99 win over the talented Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“We’re starting to put it together. We had a little hiccup at Utah but we’ve done a pretty good job. We’re getting better each game. We’re not going to play perfect every game. We’re not going to win every game from here on out probably but at the end of the day, as long as we continue to get better and work toward our goal, we’ll be fine.
“We haven’t blown as many leads as we did early on in the season so we’re getting better.”
Rondo had 11 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in helping the Celtics hold off Denver and clinch a playoff spot in the East.
“We got to the line tonight,” Rondo said. “Myself, I was trying to be aggressive early. I thought they had a problem getting matched up with their man so I tried to push myself or advance the ball with the pass and Paul did as well. He started off the game great, got to the line, got a couple of easy layups and got his rhythm.”
As for avenging the loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Feb. 21, Rondo said it was no big deal.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s just another game.”
Perhaps the Celtics showed why they are peaking at the right time when the game got close at the end of the third quarter. Earlier in the season, when J.R. Smith’s desperation 3-pointer went through the hoop, the collective shoulders of the Celtics might have sagged.
But not on this night. When the Celtics lead was cut to 87-80 at the end of the third, Nate Robinson sank a three himself to start the fourth and the Celtics steadily built their lead back up through the teens, eventually putting the game away.
“They made a run but that’s part of the game,” Rondo said. “We knew in the second half they would make a run so during halftime we just tried to stick together. We told ourselves we have to just handle adversity better. When teams do make a run, let’s not get down or bicker amongst each other. Let’s stick together and make a run ourselves.”
The Celtics won their fourth straight at home for the first time this season and now stand 22-12 at home after losing just six at home last year.
“Whether it’s home or away, it’s about time for us to get some momentum,” Rondo said, before admitting, “It might be too late for that. We feel we’re a team where it should be that way but we’ve lost a lot of games here. Twelve and we lost only six last year but at the end of the day, the playoffs are a totally different atmosphere so we’ll be ready.”
|Rondo getting the point of Paul and KG||03.17.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
Rondo knows if Pierce and Garnett play like they did on Wednesday, whether it’s the lowly Knicks or the mighty Cavs, the Celtics become a whole different beast.
Even with two early fouls, Pierce finished with 29 points and Garnett added 22. Most impressive were the open looks Rondo was getting the pair – one major reason Pierce made 11 of his 17 shots and Garnett 9-of-his-11.
‘I do [take pride in setting up],” Rondo said. “You know you can’t leave out Ray [Allen]. He’s a jump shooter, so you got to get them looks early. Paul and Kevin create their shots anytime on the court. Get them looks and transitions I think is key. Get them easy looks an going to the free throw lines, and aggressive. I think that both of those guys, talking to Paul and Kevin early on in the game.’
After the game, Rivers said it was Rondo who stepped up his scoring when he could, getting to the basket and taking more open shots.
That’s all changed now and Rondo said he is more than happy to revert to just running the show and getting the team’s scorers involved.
‘When I feel like I need to score,” Rondo explained, “I try and do it but otherwise, you know we are rolling. Take shots that’s fine with me, as long as we win. Getting assists better for me than scoring.
‘First and for most. Everybody is back by now, and guys are playing well. Paul played well tonight. You we are winning so be it, regardless of the outcome of how many shots I take, as long as we win.’
|How close is that corner?||03.14.10 at 11:03 pm ET|
The Celtics repeatedly have mentioned ‘turning a corner’ to get back on a winning track. But with 17 games left in the regular season, how far away is that corner?
‘I don’t know, maybe 17 blocks,’ Rajon Rondo guesstimated on Friday. ‘It should be the same zip code.’
Doc Rivers said he has felt his team getting closer, including at times during Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers. ‘I told our guys, it’s frustrating for me because I could see in a lot of ways how close we are to breaking out and to being really good,’ he told reporters after the game. But the Celtics trailed the Cavs by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter and lost for the third time in four games.
The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 contests, a stretch that included a three-game winning streak and a pair of two-game skids. Ray Allen understands the regular season can be a series of ups and downs, the reason why he thinks that corner isn’t that distant.
‘I live on an island. I don’t have blocks or anything in the country,’ Ray Allen said. ‘Any time you have to turn a corner, the corner is a block away. It’s just a block away because once you do something well, you feel like you’ve turned a corner. So it’s never that far away. Just like when you’re good, you’re just teeter-tottering on being bad, vice versa.’
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