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Rondo makes Suns pay 01.19.09 at 11:52 pm ET
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On Draft Night 2006, the Phoenix Suns selected Rajon Rondo with the 21st pick and traded him to the Boston Celtics. It was a move to stay under the salary cap, avoid the luxury tax, and free up money for future acquisitions. Three years later, nearly $75 million in payroll could not stop him.

‘€œThe challenge is what everybody’s challenge is with him ‘€“ keeping him in front,’€ said Suns head coach Terry Porter following the Celtics 104-87 victory. ‘€œHe does a great job of penetrating, getting to the paint, and causing havoc that way.’€

This season Rondo is set to earn $1.3 million, a bargain by NBA standards and nearly one-tenth of Steve Nash’s salary. On Monday night he proved he was worth every penny the Suns did not pay for him. Rondo posted 23 points, seven assists, and five rebounds, six more than Amar’e Stoudemire (RECAP HERE).

‘€œThere were a lot of fast break opportunities for me,’€ he said after the game. ‘€œThey missed shots, that was key for us all night long. We got stops on defense and that allowed me to push it up on the break and get easy looks at the basket.’€

Rondo scored more than half of his points in the paint against the Suns $35 million front court of Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire. Whereas other teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have collapsed on Rondo, the Suns let him have his way at the hoop.

‘€œHe’€™s improving all the time. He’€™s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league,’€ Nash said. ‘€œI think regardless of whether he’€™s shooting the ball well and he needs to improve there, his game has improved. I think it’€™s made the shooting not as big a question. He’€™s become a better and better passer. He’€™s a great athlete who does a lot of things for his team on the floor. He’€™s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league.’€

Even though Rondo says he does not think about being traded, his performance only accentuated the Suns’ Draft Night loss. Over the years they have also drafted and dealt point guards Nate Robinson and Sergio Rodriguez, as well as forward Luol Deng. After missing out on Brandon Rush in the 2008 Draft, the Suns are left with little depth at the one-spot and a point guard who turns 35 next month.

‘€œWell, we’€™ve had a few draft night trades to stay under the salary cap that were difficult in the big picture,’€ said Nash. ‘€œOur franchise is built on a business model that tries to stay under the cap as much as we can. It’€™s just how it’€™s been.’€

It’s games like this that could have the Suns wondering what might have been. But for Rondo, it’s just another game.

‘€œI just try to get better every game,’€ he said. ‘€œNo one particular night I can try to say my confidence has been boosted, but I just try to stay consistent as possible because there’€™s a lot of ups and downs in the NBA. I had a good night tonight, shooting the ball but it’€™s all about the win.’€

Three years ago it was all about the money for the Suns. On Monday night it was all about the win for Rondo.

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Rajon Rondo
Sounds of the game… Celtics 118, Nets 86 01.15.09 at 10:37 am ET
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When the Celtics were in the midst of a slump that had them losing seven of nine, captain Paul Pierce said they needed to get their swagger back, especially on defense.

Well they can thank the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets for helping them to regain some of the confidence that was on display when they opened the season 27-2.

Pierce hit all five of his three-pointers in the third quarter as the Celtics romped to their thrid straight win. This looked more like the romps that were common place in the first two months of the season. The defense forced 20 turnovers and even without Kendrick Perkins, the Green dominated the glass. And on the offensive side, Rajon Rondo, when he wasn’t throwing in half-hooks, dished out 12 assists helping the Celtics ease to their 32nd win, by 32 points.

Doc Rivers said the team’s rhythm isn’t back but it’s getting there.

Paul Pierce feels the team’s confidence is coming back slowly but surely.

Pierce on his five three-pointers in the third quarter.

Rajon Rondo said the team is playing better after their 2-7 dip.

Rondo said he can sense the team is starting to play better together.

Eddie House said the Celtics are getting back to where they were early in season.

Bill Walker said his improved defense will keep him up with the Celtics.

Nets coach Lawrence Frank said the Celtics just kicked the Nets good.

Next up for the Celtics, after a day off on Thursday and practice on Friday, a rematch with the Nets in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, eddie house, Lawrence Frank
Rondo: Feels good to win 01.14.09 at 8:34 am ET
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In the latest edition of his Yardbarker.com blog, Rajon Rondo said he is happy to be back on the winning side of things. Back-to-back victories over the Toronto Raptors have the Boston Celtics point guard feeling good again.

I’m glad to say that we have won the last two games (knock on wood). I don’t want to jinx anything, but these past two wins have felt great. It is extremely tough to beat the same team back to back, but I’m glad that we did. Our defense was better and we were able to make shots-two things that we needed. We have another game tomorrow. Hopefully, we will be able to get the W.

Rondo averaged 11.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in the last two wins. He will be tested tonight against the New Jersey Nets standout PG Devin Harris.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets, Rajon Rondo
Are the Celtics in trouble? 01.06.09 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics knew there would be a target on their backs this season. But the threats sounded empty after winning 19 straight and blowing out their opponents in embarrassing fashion. Eventually, though, the rest of the league began to fight back. The Los Angeles Lakers were the first to take a stand. The Golden State Warriors followed suit and soon the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats wanted in. (CLICK HERE for a recap of Tuesday’s loss to the Bobcats.)

For every game the Celtics win, there is an opponent circling their next meeting. The problem is, the Celtics can’t mark every game as their biggest and defending their title is taking a toll on them. They are 2-5 since losing to the Lakers on Christmas Day and holes in the roster are being exposed. The once unstoppable Rajon Rondo has been contained by big men. The bench that was supposed to compensate for the loss of James Posey has blown numerous leads. Final minutes that used to be garbage time are now seconds of desperation.

December 25, 2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83

The Celtics made the Lakers look soft last season during the NBA Finals. The Lakers got payback by snapping the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day, challenging the Celtics to test them again for the title. Phil Jackson inspired other coaches to put their bigs on Rondo, which stifled the Cs soaring offense.

December 26, 2008: Warriors 99, Celtics 89

The Warriors kicked the Celtics while they were down and handed them their second consecutive loss of the season in Oakland. It was a rude awakening that offered a reminder that, no matter what kind of advantage the Celtics have on paper, stats can’t compensate for the motivation of their opponents.

December 30, 2008: Trail Blazers 91, Celtics 86

The Brandon Roy-less Trail Blazers forced the Celtics to make bad plays and dealt Boston its first loss in Portland in four years. The Celtics were outrebounded by 15 in a sloppy defensive effort.

January 4, 2009: Knicks 100, Celtics 88

Thirty points from Al Harrington served as a reminder to the Cs of what a deep bench can do for you. The Celtics were simply outhustled and there was no secret who wanted this win more.

January 6, 2009: Bobcats 114, Celtics 106 (OT)

The Celtics practically welcomed the Bobcats into the paint with open arms early on to jumpstart this loss. They forced far too many shots from long range (6-23 3PG) and did not hit enough from the line (22-30 FT). This game affirmed the concern that the Celtics have work to do.

As long as the Celtics wear the rings, they will also wear a target. It is an inevitable struggle they will have to overcome if they want to face the same curse next season.

Read More: Al Harrington, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Kevin Garnett
All-Star Voting Update 12.25.08 at 7:06 pm ET
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On Christmas Day the second returns of the 2009 NBA All-Star Game ballots were announced. Dwight Howard continues to lead all votes while Rajon Rondo still struggles to crack the top 10 among all guards. Boston Celtics are bolded below in the Eastern Conference results:

Forwards: LeBron James (Clev) 1,259,764; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 905,506; Yi Jianlian (NJ) 762,162; Chris Bosh (Tor) 500,700; Paul Pierce (Bos) 313,474; Shawn Marion (Mia) 210,040; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 137,035; Danny Granger (Ind) 116,238; Josh Smith (Atl) 110,186; Michael Beasley (Mia) 100,257; Tayshaun Prince (Det) 98,262.

Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,229,858; Allen Iverson (Det) 858,469; Vince Carter (NJ) 600,087; Ray Allen (Bos) 354,642; Devin Harris (NJ) 267,504; Gilbert Arenas (Wash) 205,223; Derrick Rose (Chi) 203,687; Luke Ridnour (Mil) 197,933; Jose Calderon (Tor) 193,715; Jameer Nelson (Orl) 174,081; Joe Johnson (Atl) 162,772.

Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,421,882; Samuel Dalembert (Phi) 232,733; Rasheed Wallace (Det) 163,279; Jermaine O’€™Neal (Tor) 147,534; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 112,708; Al Horford (Atl) 107,118; Ben Wallace (Clev) 89,809; Emeka Okafor (Char) 69,015; Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas (Cle) 60,970; Kendrick Perkins (Bos) 54,772; Brendan Haywood (Wash) 28,182.

Read More: Dwight Howard, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Sounds of the Game… Celtics 126, Bulls 108 12.20.08 at 10:32 am ET
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What makes a great team is when it can constantly find way to get better even when things are already going so well. Doc Rivers and staff worked with center Kendrick Perkins to work on setting better screens and picks, convincing him that this would lead to better seals under the basket and eventually more scoring opportunities for him. The result? Perk scored a career high 25 points on Friday night, second only to Ray Allen’s 27 as the C’s (yawn-yawn) dispatched of the Chicago Bulls 126-108 at TD Banknorth Garden. Now, the Celtics can match the team’s all-time winning streak mark of 18 on Sunday night against Quentin Richardson and the Knicks at home. If victorious against New York, the chance to break it comes on Tuesday against another arch-rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Doc Rivers on the good first and third quarters.

Rivers said Ray Allen is hitting his stride this year with the team.

Rivers jokes about Ray Allen’s 27 points.

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were not surprised at the great crowd that showed up.

Garnett said the Celtics were locked in at the beginning of the game.

Rajon Rondo said the winning streak isn’t changing the Celtics.

Kendrick Perkins on the coaching staff working hard to keep team sharp.

Perkins looks forward to Knicks and Sixers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett
73 or 34 in a row 12.19.08 at 7:42 pm ET
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Chicago, one of the most important bands of the 70s once wondered, 25 or 6 to 4. Sitting here at TD Banknorth Garden watching Chicago’s NBA entry offer precious little resistance to the Celtics, your intrepid reporter was inspired to re-work the question.

What is more likely, the Celtics winning 73 games in a season to break the 1997 Chicago Bulls all-time record or 34 straight wins to top the mark by the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers?

Would love to hear your comments and thoughts. Just Email Trags

This reporter is on record maintaining that as the Celtics are currently constituted, they will win 73 and set the new record. As for 34 straight, with a West Coast swing on the docket starting Christmas Day, that might be too much, even for these Celtics.

One other random question… With Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, in attendance at the Garden taking in the game, who is in better shape, Bolt or Ray Allen? When the two shook hands just prior to the fourth quarter at the scorer’s table, it marked a meeting of two supremely conditioned athletes.

Then, following the game, Bolt entered the locker room for a personal chat with the team and coaching staff. There was this question posed… Who would win a race, Bolt or Rajon Rondo?

Doc Rivers, who was surprised at Bolt’s height, on the great debate.

Rajon Rondo told Bolt, ‘I’ll see you in 2012′.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Hussein Bolt, Rajon Rondo
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