Let me first admit that I am a Rajon Rondo apologist. I have loved the player since his time at Kentucky. No player comes to mind who has such a horrible jumper but is so effective in every other aspect of his game that it doesn’t matter that he can’t shoot. So coming off the heels of his triple-double last night, we are going to take a quick gander at Rondo’s NBA career and his road to MVP chants at the TD Garden.
Despite having 2 years of eligibility left at Kentucky, Rondo decided to enter the 2006 NBA Draft. While he was the first point guard drafted, it wasn’t until the 21st overall pick that he heard his name called. The Phoenix Suns drafted him then immediately traded him for a bag of peanuts and cash to the Boston Celtics.
Rondo’s rookie season saw him splitting time with the more hyped Sebastian Telfair. With his inability to hit a jump shot, Rajon mostly played a back-up role. Starting 25 games and averaging 23 minutes per game.
The Weak Link
Paul Pierce was already there when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined the Celtics. The media dubbed them “The Big 3″. The media also decided they had a weak link, Rajon Rondo. Going into to the season many people thought that Boston would surely compete for an NBA Title. They also thought if anything was going to keep them from it, Rondo would be the reason.
While Rondo’s statistics only went up slightly, now averaging 10 ppg and 5 apg, he definitely showed improvement on the floor and finished top 5 in the NBA’s “Improved Player Award” voting. However it was in the postseason where Rondo would start to shine.
An old rivalry was renewed in the 2008 NBA Finals, Lakers vs Celtics. Video games and folk lore are built upon these 2 traditional powerhouses. Before the Finals were underway all the focus was on Kobe “Jelly Bean Jr.” Bryant against the Boston Big 3. Nobody would figure that Rondo would play such a crucial role in the series.
Game 2 saw Rondo record, a then high, 16 assists. But it was his game 6 performance that saw him earn the praise of Phil Jackson. Rajon helped the Celtics win their first title since the 80’s, just stuffing the stat sheet. 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals. After the game Jackson called Rondo the “star” of the game. High praise for a player who was supposed to hold the team back.
Ill-Tempered & Growing Superstar
The following years saw Rondo’s stock rise as well as his conceived personality. While his play on the court kept getting better and triple-double after triple-double started to mount up, word started to spread of Rondo being a bit ill-tempered. Only playing well on nationally televised games and going through the motions in ones that weren’t. Even more rumors started to spread….
While the “Big 3″ started to get older and lose some of their skill, gossip surrounded the Celtics camp about breaking the team up. No longer thought to be a threat in the Eastern Conference, Celtics GM Danny Ainge openly admitted, no player was safe on Boston’s roster. Somehow, despite being the youngest “star” player, Rondo was the media’s pick as to who should be moved.
Going into this strike shortened season and playing a bunch of back to backs, it seemed as if the time for the trade was now. Boston being older, and playing 66 games in 4 months, was going to be a non-factor in the 2012 season. But with a late season surge no moves were made by the Celtics. Rondo and the much older “Big 3″ were still intact.
Rondo is never in the discussion of best point guards in the league. That argument stays with CP3, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, and Russel Westbrook. No matter how many mind-boggling statistical games Rondo has… it’s never enough. The fact he has my 3 year old daughter’s jump shot prevents any person to add him to the discussion. But they should. The criticisms that were “he only plays big on the big stage” is the same argument as to why he is so special. And in my opinion the best point guard in the league.
3 triple-doubles this postseason. Now ranking 4th all time in career playoff triple-doubles. Today starts the era of the Rajon Rondo led Boston Celtics. Doug Collins, as politely as possible, said as much after Rondo closed them out in game 7 Saturday night. Out scoring Philly by himself with 3 minutes to go, having Boston fans chanting “MVP” while he was on the charity stripe. “I don’t look at them as the Big Three. I look at them as the Championship Four,” the Philadelphia coach said. “Because if you’re going to leave Rondo out, you’re making a huge mistake.” That is the polite way of saying “Hey the big 3 is dead, it’s Rondo’s team now”.
It’s Early/He’s Still Young
I am one of the most pro-biased Rondo people you will ever meet. I am not a Celtics fan, I actually like the Lakers. I’m just a huge fan of success where it’s least expected (and a loyalist). Anyone who tells you now that Rondo was going to be this good coming out of Kentucky is lying. I didn’t think he would, Phoenix didn’t, nor did the Boston faithful or the media.
What’s scariest about Rondo is his age, he is only 26 with no ceiling as far as potential. He is probably the best defensive, rebounding, passing, and ball-handling point guard in the NBA. What he lacks is that jump shot. Which he can actually improve on over time.
Think whatever you want of his mental capacity, he does not shrink in the big moment. So while ESPN will continue singing Chris Paul’s praises, Rondo will be hitting shots to put teams away in the playoffs.
Joseph Nardone is a Writer/Blogger for Sir Charles In Charge. He is also a
loyalist apologist for Rajon Rondo. You can follow him on the twitter machine @JosephNardone