|Rondo makes Suns pay||01.19.09 at 11:52 pm ET|
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.
‘The 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. ‘He 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).
‘There were a lot of fast break opportunities for me,’ he said after the game. ‘They 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.
‘He’s improving all the time. He’s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league,’ Nash said. ‘I 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.
‘Well, we’ve had a few draft night trades to stay under the salary cap that were difficult in the big picture,’ said Nash. ‘Our 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.
‘I just try to get better every game,’ he said. ‘No 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.