Rondo Deserves to Be an All-Star
Point guard Rajon Rondo, once viewed with some skepticism, should be joining Boston's All-Star trio this season, compensating for any steps his veteran teammates might be losing to age.
The Celtics (16-4) are back to where they were when they won the 2008 championship -- except Rondo now makes them better.
"Almost there,'' Rondo told the Boston Herald. "It's not complete, but it's almost there.''
The return of Kevin Garnett, and the consistency of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, will garner much of the attention again, but it's the play of Rondo this season that really has re-ignited all the title talk.
Rondo, in his fourth season but his first since signing that much-debated, five-year, $55 million extension, is leading the NBA in steals (2.55 spg). He is fourth in assists (9 apg), but first in the Eastern Conference. His field-goal percentage is up, his turnovers down, and he's playing with a confidence that only the best point guards have.
He no longer plays in awe of -- or defers to -- the Big Three. Instead, he orchestrates the show now, setting them up and delivering the ball.
"It starts with our point guard,'' Garnett remarked to reporters after a recent win. "He's gotten better at consolidating, and being aggressive, knowing when to be aggressive.''
The Celtics return to play Tuesday night at home, coming off a four-game road trip sweep in which Rondo proved just how valuable he was. They won in Miami, where Heat coach Eric Spoelstra credited Rondo for dictating the flow of the game. They won in San Antonio when Rondo hit the game-clinching basket. The finished by winning in Oklahoma City, where Rondo and Garnett repeatedly ran the pick-and-roll play to perfection. They also won in Charlotte without breaking a sweat.
The Celtics have the league's best road record (9-1). They also are riding a seven-game winning streak, topped only the Lakers, who won their ninth in a row Sunday night against Phoenix.
The post season already is shaping up as a showdown between the 2009 champs (Lakers) and the 2008 champs (Celtics). And the difference-maker there could be Rondo, who is considerably improved from two seasons ago and considerably better than Lakers counterpart Derek Fisher.
Garnett, the reigning, NBA Player of the Week, has begun playing better now because he is healthier. Rondo is playing better because he is getting better, working his way to the top of Eastern Conference point guards.
His status in the East is why he deserves to be in his first All-Star Game in February. He is better now than Devin Harris and Mo Williams, who played for the East last season. He is better than Jameer Nelson, who was named to the team but didn't play because of injury last season.
His status rose late last season and into the playoffs when the Celtics were without Garnett, forcing him into more of a take-charge role. And now with Garnett back in the lineup, Rondo has remained a confident, vital part of the team, more than just a set-up man for the Big Three.
In that recent road trip, he had 13 points and 11 assists against Miami. He had 12 points and 12 assists against San Antonio. He had 16 and 6 against Oklahoma City.
If his defensive prowess continues, he could become the first Celtic ever to lead the league in steals.
For all the great Celtics in history, it's been more than 20 years since they put a point guard in the NBA All-Star Game. It's time for Rondo to break that streak.