|Rondo latest key to the series||04.30.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
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?
Yes, Doc said they were going to play off you and you have to take advantage of it.
Have there been things you’ve learned over the years about playing against those defenses?
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?
You don’t show it. You’re pretty pumped up for this?
|Wade’s D on Rondo ‘destructive’||04.27.10 at 6:39 pm ET|
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.
|Rivers on Rondo: He’s been our Varitek||04.24.10 at 5:13 pm ET|
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.”
|Rondo receives votes for NBA’s Most Improved Player||04.22.10 at 2:40 pm ET|
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.
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.
|Flu bug bites Rondo||04.16.10 at 4:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM – When the curtain lifted on the Celtics practice sessions yesterday there was one player missing. Rajon Rondo is the latest victim of the flu that has swept through the team recently. He took part in film session and a walkthrough and then the team sent him home.
Doc Rivers said that he expects Rondo will play, but he added, “I don’t know how he’s going to feel.”
Rivers said he had been throwing up and was sent to the hospital for IV work.
Allen, who will have a big hand in defending Dwyane Wade, said he is feeling better.
“I feel good today,” he said. “I was a little winded, but I expected that. Tomorrow should be a little better.”
|A look back: Celtics vs. Heat||04.15.10 at 11:15 pm ET|
The Celtics and Heat will square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday. The teams faced each other three times this season, with the Celtics sweeping the regular-season series. See how the Celtics got a 3-0 edge over the Heat heading into the postseason:
CELTICS 92, HEAT 85
Nov. 29, 2009, at Miami
How the Celtics won: Led by 24 points (11-12 FG) from Kevin Garnett, the Celtics starters led a balanced attack in this win over the Heat. Rajon Rondo (13 points, 11 assists) and Kendrick Perkins (14 points, 13 rebounds) recorded double-doubles; Paul Pierce added 15 points; and Ray Allen scored 11, including a key 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. The C’s shut the Heat down from behind the arc (2-for-15). Michael Beasley was the only player to knock down a trey.
Wade watch: Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 27 points. He attempted 23 field goals, the same number as Garnett and Pierce combined. The Heat were also a team-low -14 with Wade on the court.
Key stat: Assists ‘ Celtics 21, Heat 12
After the game: Celtics 13-4, Heat 9-7
The Three-Pointer: Garnett enjoys a run of near perfection
|Rondo talks winning in cover story||04.08.10 at 11:17 pm ET|
This month Rajon Rondo is featured on the cover of Dime Magazine, his first national cover story. Rondo discusses his competitive nature, dedication to winning, and drive to be the best. Check out a video from the photo shoot and excerpts from the article:
On staying hungry: ‘After I won the first ring, I just wanted to get another one. Stay hungry and never settle. Most people don’t get to experience that feeling, so I want to try and feel that way again. Especially with the team that we have, most people can’t say that they can compete each year for a ring, and for the last three years, we’ve been able to contend. Might as well seize the opportunity while I can.”
On inspiring work ethics: ‘Now, KG. Actually, KG and Ray. They’re future Hall of Famers. And right now as we speak, you know they’re down there working out. They never settle, so why should I? I’ve accomplished nowhere near what they’ve accomplished. They’re perennial All-Stars. That’s one of my goals as I continue getting better.”
On being the best: ‘What makes me want to keep getting better is that I just love being the best. I know other point guards like Deron Williams and Chris Paul aren’t settling; Steve Nash continues to get better as he gets older. I’m in love with trying to be the best person I can be, the best player on the court, the best point guard in the league.”