"He's got no jumper."
"There's no way a kid this young can lead a team with three All-Stars."
"He's not strong enough."
These critiques, and many more, were lobbed at Rajon Rondo before his second season with the Boston Celtics. Despite his immense success and bold leadership in the Celtics' first 82 games, journalists who had barely seen Rondo play continued to recycle these statements throughout the regular season.
Even some coaches were guilty of underestimating the skill and intelligence of the young point guard out of the University of Kentucky, leaving Rondo open to double-team the "Boston Three Party."
As the season progressed, Rondo looked for his shot more frequently, and his field goal percentage increased with his confidence.
Fifteen points, nine assists, six rebounds, two steals, 6-of-9 field goals, 3-of-4 free throws, and zero turnovers in 28 minutes in the opening game of Boston's first-round playoff series against Atlanta.
He's got no jumper?
You could have fooled me—and everyone else watching Game One .
Rondo made multiple outside shots while fading away from coverage—while still distributing nine assists to the likes of Paul Pierce (16 points), Kevin Garnett (16 points), and Ray Allen (18 points).
Sure, doubters will point to the fact that the youngster air-balled one of his three misses on a deep jumper. But how many second-year players will follow up an air-ball in a debut playoff game with a fearless fade-away that hits nothing but net?
The kid's got ice-water in his veins. If teams disagree with me, please, leave him open. I'm begging you...
He can't lead three All-Stars?
Rajon finished within two points of Allen and one point each of Pierce and Garnett. His nine assists equaled all of the star trio's assists combined.
He also pulled down six rebounds—tying him for the team's second-most boards with 6'10" Kendrick Perkins—and matched James Posey for the most steals in the game with two.
Not only did Rondo run the team's offense, then—he produced the best stat line out of all 12 players who saw playing time.
He's not strong enough?
Rondo's six rebounds came despite his (generously-measured) 6'1" frame. Twice he vaulted over much larger defenders for offensive rebounds.
What's more, Rondo's defense frustrated playoff veteran point guard Mike Bibby, who ended up with only five points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Bibby—the Hawks' playmaker—had three rebounds, one assist, and two turnovers in 34 minutes. Bibby is a bigger, more experienced player who was overmatched by the wily strength of Rajon Rondo.
You're probably thinking that is the point where I recap everything I've mentioned in order to drive home the point that Rajon Rondo should NOT be underestimated by opposing teams in the playoffs.
But you're wrong.
This is actually the part of the column where I beg and plead with teams to remember that Rondo's got no jumper, can't lead a star-studded team, and isn't strong enough to hang with the big boys.
So by all means—don't guard him. Sit back and wait for his turnovers, and count on his weak will. That's right, rely on outdated rhetoric rather than updated scouting reports. It'll be fine, just fine.
After all, Rondo's just a second-year point guard. What could he possibly do?
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