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Fast Break: No Rajon Rondo, no problem; Celtics smoke Blazers 11.30.12 at 10:04 pm ET
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As Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat the first of his two-game suspension, five of his teammates reached double figures, led by Jeff Green‘s 19 points, and just about every member of the Blazers not named LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t bother to show up in a 96-78 blowout at the Garden.

Jason Terry (17 points), Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Courtney Lee all joined Green in double digits. Here’s what else transpired.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Portlandia: The Celtics put away the Blazers early. They started 10-of-15 from the field, and by first quarter’s end the C’s owned a 25-18 advantage on 57.1 percent shooting as all five starters scored between 4-6 points. By halftime, three Celtics had already reached double figures, they shot 56.8 percent as a group and took a 56-33 lead into the break. In the meantime, Portland shot 5-of-16 (31.3 FG%) in the opening quarter and somehow managed worse in the second (2-14, 14.3 FG%).

GreenLee: As Twitter follower @EricJsaint noted, Green and Lee each probably played their best game of the season (with the possible exception of Green’s 17-point night against the Thunder). On a sprained right knee, Green shot 6-of-13 (2-4 3P) to go along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, starting in Rondo’s absence, Lee amassed 10 points (4-10 FG), seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Rest home: Given the fact they led by as many as 25 points in the first half, elder Celtics statesman Garnett and Pierce played just 23 and 27 minutes, respectively. An unexpected bonus with Rondo out of the lineup, for sure, considering the C’s head to Milwaukee for the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks on Saturday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Depth perception: Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed he would only break the Chris Wilcox glass in case of emergency. Well, when backup center Jason Collins picked up his third personal foul in a span of 5:36, Rivers turned to Wilcox — with a minute left in the first quarter.

Lone star: The Celtics appeared content letting LaMarcus Aldridge try to beat them, as long as he had to do it all by himself. At halftime, the 2012 NBA All-Star had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. His teammates? 16 on 2-of-19.

Running afoul: Portland attempted 27 free throws in the first 24 minutes (37 in all). Blazers bigs Aldridge and J.J. Hickson combined for 17 by the break while the C’s had just 12. Just a guess: Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t pleased.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jeff Green, NBA, Portland Trail Blazers Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Opinion: Appreciate Rajon Rondo while you can at 7:37 am ET
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I went to the Celtics game Wednesday night eager to watch Rajon Rondo.

Rajon Rondo's ejection Wednesday night reignited the discussion about the mercurial point guard's importance to the team. (AP)

No Celtics player has been the topic of more discussion this season. The man with the assist streak has been a lightning rod for Boston sports fans. Reading the blogs and listening to talk radio before the game, one heard that Rondo either was the best point guard in the NBA or a mercurial, self-serving diva who never could be the centerpiece of a championship team.

Then the game started. These days, at the Garden, a fan’s attention is locked in two places. The first is the video scoreboard, where the fan cam runs on an endless loop. The second is Rajon Rondo.

Like any special player in the NBA, Rondo captivates an audience. He sees the court differently, and plays with a style completely unique to the NBA. For each of Rondo’s strengths — his handle, his ability to get to wherever he wants on the floor, his vision, and his passing — he has a weakness. Both the strengths and weaknesses are discussed with equal enthusiasm.

In the first half, the best and worst of Rondo was on full display. He had no trouble getting deep into the lane on a Brooklyn team that had Brook Lopez at center and Kris Humphries at power forward. On one fast-break sequence, Rondo went coast-to-coast before leaving his feet for a layup under the basket, only to wrap the ball around a defender to an unsuspecting Brandon Bass. A potential dunk ended up as a turnover, and talk of Rondo’s predisposition to pass rather than shoot could be heard throughout the arena. On another possession, Rondo attempted to beat the shot clock by driving the lane, only to get his shot blocked by Humphries. On a later defensive possession, Rondo played his typical turnstile man-to-man defense as Deron Williams drove the lane. Rondo slapped at the opposing point guard’s hands after he was beat, putting Williams on the line.

The tough part for Rondo was the entire first half played out that way. He set up teammates for shots, and they missed. He struggled on the defensive end. With about four minutes left in the half, Rondo had three assists. He was off pace in his quest for his 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.

Then Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett under the basket. Then Rondo snapped.

There is no bigger disparity in the opinions of Rondo than in the people who attend Celtics games and those who watch on TV — or perhaps don’t watch at all.

When Rondo pushed Humphries under the basket and the confrontation spilled into the seats, the arena erupted. It wasn’t much of a fight, but it was the first time a Celtic had pushed back all night. As tough as Garnett has been throughout his career, he now is a veteran who gets calls by absorbing contact and jerking away suddenly. For much of the first half, the Nets initiated contact, and the Celtics got the calls. Often, Nets players shook their heads, almost surprised that this is how the Celtics want to play now.

But Rondo woke up the crowd. At the conclusion of the scuffle, fans rose to their feet and started a “Let’s go Celtics” chant. They cheered when Humphries and Gerald Wallace were ejected. They booed when Rondo was ejected. There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about Rondo’s maturity. Until the next day.
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Doc Rivers: ‘I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard’ 11.29.12 at 9:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers touched on it in the wake of Wednesday’s 95-83 loss to the Nets at TD Garden. He said the Nets and other teams in the NBA can see the Celtics are “soft.”

On Thursday, after practice, he expanded upon those thoughts and clarified himself.

“We don’t work on toughness, we work on smartness,” Rivers said. “We work on being prepared and playing with a force. Listen, the toughness stuff is so overblown. You can’t be tough anyway. I don’t know who is tough anymore. Having said that, we have to be better. I have to prepare them better. They have to come ready. They have to come with the right intentions, the right focus. So, there’s a lot of things we can improve to improve our team.

“It’s a long season to do it. But you can’t wait to do it. You have to do it now.”

“We’re getting mauled on the rebounds every night. So, if I’m another coach, I have to tell my team, ‘Guys, they’re not very physical. they’re not blocking out, they’re not putting bodies on anybody. You can attack this team.’ Until we stop the attack, they’re going to keep doing it.”

Rivers, who played for the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs, made it clear he doesn’t need or want Rajon Rondo to be an enforcer to show the Celtics are the right kind of tough.

“I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]. Listen, the message should’ve been sent by the scoreboard and the offensive rebounds and all the talking the other team was doing. That should’ve been the message. If that’s got to be the message, then we’ve got real problems.

“I was a leader on some teams, I wasn’t on other teams. I didn’t need anybody to tell me to do things right. At some point, you have to do it yourself.”

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Poll: What do you think of the 2-game suspension of Rajon Rondo? at 5:53 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo has been suspended two games without pay (approximately $268,000) for fighting with Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries during the second quarter of the Nets’ 95-83 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden on Wednesday. Additionally, Brooklyn’s Gerald Wallace has been fined $35,000 and Boston’s Kevin Garnett has been fined $25,000 for escalating the altercation. The penalties were announced Thursday by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Rondo will serve his suspension on Friday, Nov. 30 when the Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers and Saturday, Dec. 1 when the Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

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Rajon Rondo: ‘I play the game hard, I play with an edge every night’ at 3:21 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo spoke for the first time since being ejected from Wednesday night’s game for fighting. Rondo said he spoke with the NBA office about an hour before Thursday’s practice and made his case for his involvement in the altercation with Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries, after Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett in mid-air on a baseline drive to the basket with 29.5 seconds left in the second quarter.

“I talked to the NBA,” Rondo said. “They recorded the conversation. I just explained what went on, what happened [late] in the second quarter. I told them the truth. I don’t know what’s going to happen. They haven’t made any decisions yet. I’m just waiting to hear back from the league. I went through practice hoping I’ll play [Friday] but you never know.”

Before getting suspended two games without pay ($268,000), Rondo said he was prepared to accept whatever penalty was dished out.

“You never know, you just never know,” Rondo said. “It’s out of my control. Whatever the consequences are, that’s what they are. I don’t think I did anything dirty. I didn’t try to start a riot. I don’t think it was more than a pushing war. That’s about it.”

What Rondo did insist was that he was just standing up for Garnett, and not trying to project a bad-boy image.

“I thought the play on Kevin was a malicious play,” Rondo said. “I got hurt last year on a similar play like that, a guy going up in the air defenseless, on his way down. I just pushed Humphries and after that it was a pushing war.”

Rondo was fouled hard by Humphries in the first quarter but insisted that had nothing to do with his run-in with the Nets forward.

“I’ve been fouled by plenty of bigs,” Rondo said. “It had nothing to do with that. I wasn’t frustrated at all throughout the game. I was frustrated at myself but there weren’t any dirty plays up to that point that I thought made me do what I did. It was just a bad foul on Kevin, that’s all.

“I know I have to be out there for my teammates, that’s the only thing about it. But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn’t try to start a fight. I’m not trying to be a bully. I just didn’t think the play was fair that he made on Kevin.

“This game is a contact sport, it’s an emotional game. I play with an edge every night. I think that’s what separates me from a lot of guys. I’m not going to let that be taken away from my game. I didn’t do anything dirty. This is a new day and era, the style we play the game. Back in the day, the ball would’ve been checked up, some free throws would’ve been made and we would’ve kept going. But this is a new era and we have different rules now.”

As for being worried that he is building a negative reputation in the league office, Rondo said his incident Wednesday had nothing to do with his previous two suspensions, when he was disciplined for run-ins with NBA officials.

“[Wednesday's] actions were completely different from the other two I believe,” he said.

Rondo laughed when asked if he’s worried that he’s looked at as a “repeat offender” in the league’s eyes.

“Repeat offender? Is this a trial? But to [the NBA office], I think I play the game the right way,” he said. “I’m not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me but I have no intentions of hurting anybody out there. I go out there and compete every night. And that’s how I play the game. I play the game hard, I play the game with an edge. I’m not a trash-talker. I don’t play the game dirty. When one of my guys is disrespected, I just retaliated. Not in a bad way.

“Just shoved, which led to… some guys are calling it a fight [but] no punches were thrown, it wasn’t a brawl. It was just five guys on the court, breaking each other up.”

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At least Rajon Rondo delivered an early Christmas present: The newest Boston-New York rivalry at 12:41 pm ET
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If nothing else, the brawl between Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries gave birth to a brand new Celtics-New York rivalry.

“Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” Humphries tweeted along with a picture of his battle wounds after Rondo shoved him into the front row.

The C’s response? “Some guys are tough,” answered Jason Terry. “Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role [Brooklyn coach] Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he could leave that to somebody else.”

Terry dubbed Humphries “soft,” a term coach Doc Rivers used to describe his Celtics. Added Terry: “Humphries might as well come play with us then, if that’s the case.”

Meanwhile, Reggie Evans, who beat out Kevin Garnett for the title of “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season, lobbed this grenade at Rondo via the New York Daily News: “That’s just like a mosquito in your face. Eventually, you are going to swat at the mosquito, right? You aren’t going to let mosquitos in your face. You are going to get bumps all over your face. So, you have to knock the mosquito down.”

Added Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams: “We’re not going to back down. It’s not about being tough guys or anything like that. But we’re not going to back down.”

And newest Nets star Joe Johnson, who also witnessed Rondo’s last suspension-worthy act in the C’s-Hawks playoff series this past May, to The New York Times: “We’re trying to hold our own at this point. If you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are in the way.”

As Garnett said, “This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” And this is Boston-New York. If nothing else, Rondo gave everyone an early Christmas gift, because the next meeting between the Celtics and Nets — at noon on Dec. 25 — just got more interesting. Get your Girl Scout cookies ready.

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Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter at 2:12 am ET
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If this is what Rajon Rondo thinks of leadership, the Celtics are in big trouble.

All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.

Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.

As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”

In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”

Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.

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