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Expect more physical play in Game 2 05.03.10 at 1:40 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — There has been a lot made of the hard foul that Shaquille O’Neal administered to Rajon Rondo late in Game 1 that sent Rondo careening to the floor. One overheated Cleveland media member asked Cavs coach Mike Brown if it was the hardest playoff foul he’s ever seen.

Obviously it wasn’t, but Brown raised some eyebrows when he said he asked the NBA for clarification over whether it actually was even a foul. Brown’s contention is that Rondo initiated the contact.

That’s standard operating procedure during playoff series when teams will send a handful of plays to the league to ask for clarification. The real reason is to send a subtle message about calls that were, or were not made, during the course of a game to set the tone for the next one.

The referees for Game 2 are Dan Crawford, Dick Bavetta and Eddie Malloy. They should expect to see a lot of contact. For the record, the Celtics had no problems with the foul that O’Neal gave to Rondo.

“He’€™s just got to keep going in there,” Doc Rivers said. “Shaq’€™s doing what should do. I didn’€™t think what Shaq did was dirty or anything else. It was just a hard playoff foul. I actually applaud it. We need more of that. Both ways.”

Cavs guard Mo Williams lauded O’Neal for his foul both after Game 1 and again Monday morning as the team went through their shootaround.

“It’s a great asset to have, knowing that he’s going to give hard fouls,” Williams said. “Teams know that. They know that once they go in there they’re going to get hit, so brace yourself.”

Rondo can expect to get a huge amount of attention from the Cavs defense tonight. He saw Williams, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon at times in Game 1. The Celtics expected as much and while Brown said he would probably start Game 2 the same way — with Williams on Rondo — he won’t hesitate to go back to Parker, who is being hailed around Ohio as a Rondo stopper. A notion the Celtics don’t agree with.

“Honestly, it didn’€™t really affect us much,” Rivers said. “I thought Rondo’€™s fourth foul affected Rondo far more than Parker guarding Rondo. I think Rondo likes that matchup in a lot of ways. But that’€™s what you do. That’€™s what teams do. That’€™s what I would do. It’€™s always better to put a longer guy on a quicker guy. We actually thought it would be LeBron more.”

One thing is certain. If the Celtics are going to come back to Boston with a split, they will have to be the aggressors. Both in taking the ball to the basket and in defending the rim.

“We do have to be more physical,” Kendrick Perkins said. “We have to take it to them tonight. We have to be the more physical team. Last game they were, so tonight we just got to go out there and do what we got to do to get the win.”

Read More: Anthony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal,
All eyes on Rondo 05.02.10 at 5:03 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo might have the most difficult job of any player in the playoffs.

On the one hand, he is emerging as the Celtics best player and their best chance to upset Cleveland. On the other hand, he still has to make sure that his teammates, particularly Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are all involved in the offense.

“It’€™s difficult,” Rondo said. “I still believe that we have to go through the Big Three. I try to get those guys the ball as much as possible, but at the same time keep [the defense] honest. I guess in the second half that’€™s exactly what I did, called more movement plays. At the start of the third I was aggressive but after that I wanted the ball to keep moving. I wanted to keep everyone involved.”

The Cavaliers don’t have anyone who can guard him, so they tried three different players — Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and superfreak Jamario Moon in certain situation. Parker earned praise for containing Rondo in the second half after he blitzed Williams for 19 points and eight assists in the first half, but that’s a classic case of a cause and effect.

“We expected everybody [to guard Rondo],” Doc Rivers said. “We assumed either LeBron [James} or Parker. I guess it mattered. Statistically it says that it did.”

Rondo took just two shots and scored just eight points to go with four assists in the second half and for that, Parker gets the credit. But really the Celtics didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were available to them. Some of that is on Rondo, but not all of it.

“It’€™s a tough one for Rondo because he’€™s so conscious of Paul and Ray,” Rivers said. “If you have a pick and roll advantage you have to take advantage. I thought he tired to facilitate and the guys didn’€™t take advantage of it. We didn’€™t take advantage of what he created and that actually makes Rondo better if we do because then they can’€™t focus on him as much.”

If there was one overriding truth from Game 1 for the Celtics, it’s that Rondo has a huge mismatch over Williams, and no matter who the Cavs put on him, he has to take it upon himself to carry the load.

“I’€™m still trying to figure it out.,” Rondo said. “It’€™s hard at times. At first I wasn’€™t aggressive at all to start the game. As soon as I came out, maybe nine minutes into the game, and came to the sidelines, Doc was telling me to be aggressive. I just tried to turn it on and attack the rim.”

Is there a danger of relying too much on Rondo? A better question might be, as opposed to what?

“He’€™s a good player and he’€™s going to have the opportunity to get into the paint,” Rivers said. “Should we say they rely too much on LeBron? You got something going, you stick with it. I thought we should have done it more.”

Read More: Anthony Parker, Rajon Rondo,
Celtics seek to find Mo 05.01.10 at 7:40 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo is one of the best offensive rebounding point guards in the NBA. For a team that doesn’t get a lot of offensive boards to begin with, his ability to crash the glass and keep possessions alive is yet another piece of Rondo’s unique package.

But against the Cavs, Rondo may have to use his discretion. That’s because Mo Williams, Cleveland’s ace 3-point specialist is on the other side.

“Offensive rebounds are great as long as you get them, but when you don’€™t get them you’€™re probably going to give up a basket on the offensive end.,” Doc Rivers said prior to Game 1. “Against Cleveland, it’€™s even more important because if our points guards go to the glass and don’€™t get it, Mo Williams is probably going to get a 3. Most of his 3′€™s against us came in transition. Most of Mo’€™s 3′€™s against everyone else came through set offense. We’€™re pretty sure that we have to get back and find him.”

Williams shot 55 percent on 3′s against the Celtics this season (12-for-22) and the Celtics have made defending the arc a tip priority in this series. The other concern for Rivers is that when Rondo drives to the basket, that could leave him vulnerable in transition.

“Mo will leak out,” Rivers said. “That’s the other place that he got 3′s.”

Still, Rivers doesn’t want to completely take away this aspect of Rondo’s game. Just as he is allowed some leeway on the perimeter when he goes for steals, he is also allowed some latitude when he crashes the glass.

Cavs coach Mike Brown indicated that it’s difficult to prepare for Rondo because there’s no way to replicate what he does in practice.

“I think that guy is in Jamaica,” Rivers said. “His name is Usain Bolt. Just like we can’t recreate LeBron [James]. You can’t recreate any of those guys.”

Rivers has spoken in glowing terms about Rondo’s increased maturity this season. From running the team and calling plays, to knowing when to gamble for steals and you can add his rebounding to that list, as well. There’s a lot riding on Rondo’s shoulders in this series.

Read More: Mo Williams, Rajon Rondo,
Rondo latest key to the series 04.30.10 at 3:28 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics have unveiled so many keys for their series with the Cavaliers that they will need a ring just to keep them all straight. In addition to defensive rebounding, defending the 3-point line, energy from the bench, and, of course, guarding LeBron James, you can add one more: Rajon Rondo.

The Lakers get a lot of credit for devising the free safety defense on Rondo, but it was the Cavaliers in the 2008 conference semifinals who first effectively neutralized Rondo in a playoff series by simply not guarding him. In that series, the Cavs held him to single-digits in scoring four times and without an assist in another.

“Rondo’€™s the key to the series,” Doc Rivers said after practice Friday. “His speed has to be a factor in this series. He has to be disruptive defensively with his speed and it’€™s all pressure. They’€™re going to help off of him. Really how well he handles them trapping off of them and really not guarding him will be the key for us winning. When he’€™s effective our whole team is effective.”

The Celtics expect James will guard Rondo at times, which would allow him to essentially cause havoc by roaming around the defensive end.

“It’s movement off the ball,” Rivers said. “When he has the ball it’s no issue. When he doesn’t have the ball he has to be a great cutter and he has to be a great decision-maker once we swing the ball back to him. He has to catch it on the run and get back on the attack.”

Rondo’s reaction to being told that he was the latest key to the series?

“Really.”

Yes, Doc said they were going to play off you and you have to take advantage of it.

“We’ll see.”

Have there been things you’ve learned over the years about playing against those defenses?

“Not really.”

It seems like if you’ve kept moving and kept the ball moving you can minimize that and still be productive.

“There you have it.”

Rondo knows, obviously, what’s in front of him and what he has to do. It should be pointed out that his reactions to the same questions he’s heard hundreds of times before were fairly playful. It’s also worth noting that he’s had good success against the Cavs this season, averaging almost 15 points and more than 10 assists in four games.

So, Rajon, are you excited about the challenge?

“Yeah.”

You don’t show it. You’re pretty pumped up for this?

“Yeah.”

Read More: Rajon Rondo,
Wade’s D on Rondo ‘destructive’ 04.27.10 at 6:39 pm ET
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One of the elements of Miami’s Game 4 win was the defense Dwyane Wade played on Rajon Rondo late in the game. Actually defense isn’t the right word. Wade was assigned the task of guarding Rondo, but he gave him such a wide berth that he was able to roam the passing lanes and help on anyone who wanted to take it to the basket.

This has been done numerous times before, of course, most notably by Kobe Bryant in the 2008 Finals.

In truth, the Celtics expected to see Wade guarding Rondo much earlier in the series. Doc Rivers hinted before the playoffs even began that he figured that’s the way Miami would go. Now that the Heat are down to their last chance, the Celtics figure that they will see a lot of it in Game 5.

“We thought we’d see it much earlier,” Rivers said before the game. “They’ve used it in the fourth quarter and they’ve done it in special situations [end of the game, shot clock, out of bounds plays, etc]. Wade is really destructive when he’s guarding Rondo. He’s like a free safety. A very good safety.”

The reason Miami doesn’t go this route on every possession is that they need Wade to carry the load on the offensive end, as well. Although it should be noted that trying to follow Ray Allen around all those picks is not a lot of fun either.

Rondo was asked after Game 2 if he was surprised that he hadn’t seen Wade on him more and he just shrugged. “They’€™re having maybe four guys guard me,” he said at the time. “Dorrell Wright, [Carlos] Arroyo, [Mario] Chalmers, Wade. I don’€™t really care who guards me.”

Rondo destroyed Arroyo in Game 4, and Chalmers hasn’t fared much better. Wade would be Miami’s best option, but can the Heat really ask him to be the best player on both ends of the floor? If they do, Rivers wants Rondo and Kendrick Perkins to cut to the basket at every opportunity. They key, Rivers said, is for Rondo to stay aggressive, even if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.

Read More: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo,
Rivers on Rondo: He’s been our Varitek 04.24.10 at 5:13 pm ET
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MIAMI — Lost in the dramatics of Paul Pierce’s game-winner, Ray Allen’s Game 2 explosion and even Tony Allen’s brilliant defense on Dwyane Wade in Game 1 has been the stellar play of Rajon Rondo.

Through three games Rondo has averaged just 11.7 points, but that never tells the full story with him. He’s also getting 10 assists a nights and 6.3 rebounds, but again, numbers can’t define Rondo.

Rather, it’s been his ability to run the offense for over 40 minutes a night that has been the catalyst for the Celtics offensive execution.

“He’€™s been terrific,” Doc Rivers said. “When everyone was injured, literally, Rondo had to do a lot of scoring. But since Ray and Paul and Kevin [Garnett] are back and in rhythm, he’€™s more of the facilitator. But he does the best job of a guy you could ask to do it. He’€™s been huge in this series.”

Take the closing minute of Game 3. On the possession before Pierce’s jumper, Rondo had two options at his disposal: Allen coming off a flare screen with Garnett, or Pierce on the opposite side. He chose Allen for a corner 3 and it was a great look, it just didn’t go in.

Heat coach Erik Spolestra had some media people shaking their heads after Game 3 when he said that the reason the Celtics were so tough to defend is because they have so many crunch-time options. In other words, didn’t he know the final play was going to Pierce? Well, no. He didn’t. See the previous possession.

It’s that decision-making that has lifted Rondo’s game into the upper stratosphere of elite point guards.

“He’€™s light years [ahead of where he was], but a lot of that is just age, maturity,” Rivers said. “The other part of it is system. He’€™s been in the same system his entire career. I thought Game 3 was the best play-calling game in his career. He was like [Jason] Varitek as far as calling the right pitch. He was phenomenal. That’€™s where he’€™s improved. He know what I’€™m thinking. He’€™ll call a play and you can sit down and it’€™s terrific.”

Read More: Jason Varitek, Rajon Rondo,
Rondo receives votes for NBA’s Most Improved Player 04.22.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo received two first place votes for the 2009-10 Most Improved Player Award presented by Kia Motors. The league announced Rockets guard Aaron Brooks as the recipient of the award on Thursday.

Rondo tied Wizards center Andray Blatche for 12th place with two first place and two third place votes. Brooks received 62 first place votes; Kevin Durant finished second with 17.

This regular season Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 9.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game, up from 11.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 steals last season. He led the entire league in steals and the Eastern Conference in dimes (fourth overall). Rondo was named to his first All-Star team this year as well.

Read More: Aaron Brooks, most improved player, Rajon Rondo,
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