Greatest Moments from Rajon Rondo's Season with Boston Celtics
Being forced to watch your team from the bench in street clothes is bad enough, but Rajon Rondo had to watch his Boston Celtics slip to the dreadful bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2013-14 before finally returning.
A rebuilding season is a trying time for any player, but especially for a star in his prime coming off a major injury.
In a year meant for rebuilding, assessing talent and snagging a high lottery pick, the eventual return of Rondo was one of the few bright moments Boston fans had to look forward to.
As recovery time lengthened and the trade rumors swirled though, it began to seem like he was more a dark cloud hanging over the team than its franchise player.
However, Rondo managed to dispel that notion through the 30 games he played.
There were obviously some kinks that needed to be worked out on both ends of the court, but by the end of the season, Rondo looked like his usual triple-double-threat self.
Along the way, he also gave fans a solid share of remarkable moments to tide them over while they dream of Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins.
With another offseason of recovery under his belt, Rondo should be even better in 2014-15, but let's take a look at his best moments from this past campaign.
Was it his best game? Of course not, but the return of Rajon Rondo on Jan. 17 was easily one of Boston's major highlights in the 2013-14 campaign.
The rust was evident as Rondo logged just 19 minutes and chipped in eight points, two rebounds and four assists.
Still, he flashed just enough of his one-of-a-kind game to satisfy fans. That included a gorgeous behind-the-back fake on Pau Gasol that led to a floater in the lane.
The Celts wound up losing 104-107 to a lousy Los Angeles Lakers team after a vintage performance from Gasol.
However, even though Rondo missed a potentially game-tying triple at the buzzer, it's safe to say every Boston fan left TD Garden feeling like a winner.
Though his game looked largely the same minus a few more three-point attempts, the star playmaker claimed his attitude and philosophy changed significantly during his recovery.
In an interview with ESPN's Jessica Camerato in late January, Rondo said, "You don't take the game for granted every day that you wake up and get to play this game and step on the court. It's a blessing. It's not guaranteed. Any moment, any play, any time in the game, your life could change. So every game that I do get to play, I'm very blessed and fortunate."
Battling Old Friends for the First Time
The game against the Lakers was Rondo's official return, but he finally broke out in a Jan. 26 bout with the Brooklyn Nets.
Perhaps it was seeing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett donning road jerseys in TD Garden, or maybe just his conditioning improving, but fans saw a side of Rondo he had yet to show in the four previous games.
He logged a then-season-high 30 minutes and poured in 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for a vintage Rondo line.
He shot just 5-of-14 and recorded five turnovers, but he was clearly the alpha dog and best player on the court for the Celtics.
Brooklyn prevailed despite off nights from Pierce and KG, but Rondo's play was a huge reason the game remained close down the stretch with Jeff Green struggling.
Carving Up the Pistons for 18 Dimes
There was some concern that the gaudy passing numbers Rondo is known for would dip without Hall of Fame scorers around him, but he put them to rest in a March 9 tilt with the Detroit Pistons.
Rondo registered a double-double with 11 points and a mind-boggling 18 assists.
What's even more impressive is that he did not turn it over once. I'll have to check the math, but I'm pretty sure that's a sterling assist-to-turnover ratio.
Detroit's perimeter defense was shoddy this season, and Rondo took complete advantage, setting up his teammates in a variety of ways.
There were some textbook collapse-and-kick plays to Kris Humphries, tough passes in traffic and a gorgeous bounce to Jeff Green in the paint for a jam (2:20).
In fact, he easily could have eclipsed the 20-plus mark if the other Celts had finished on some quality looks.
Shredding a lottery team in March might not be the ideal situation for Rondo, but he more than proved his ability to create shots for any caliber of teammate.
Topping Paul Pierce and Brooklyn
After a dispiriting home loss back in January, it's safe to say Rondo was itching for another run at the Brooklyn Nets.
He got his chance on March 7 and ran with it, notching 20 points, seven boards, nine assists and four steals in a 91-84 Celtics home win.
Though Garnett did not appear in the game, Rondo finally was able to best Pierce, who had another subpar outing in his second return to Boston.
Rondo was a bit reckless with the ball, recording seven turnovers (the team had 25 total), but he splashed three threes and torched the Nets' backcourt.
He made the Brooklyn defense pay for going under screens and leaving him open, and he was absolutely fearless diving for steals and attacking the paint.
He was knocked down several times by the gritty, physical Nets but never let it impact his demeanor.
Aided by solid performances from Green and Jerryd Bayless, the C's were simply too much for the Nets to handle.
On the topic of Rondo's improved outside shot, Jared Sullinger told ESPN, "He did a tremendous job coming into the season working on his jumper constantly. Now he's starting to become the Rondo we all know every day."
Notching a Triple-Double
Losing to the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers is not something to be proud of, but at least Rondo managed to do it in style.
He recorded his only triple-double of the year in a 102-111 loss to Philly, posting 11 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists in 38 minutes.
Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams was able to pressure Rondo into seven turnovers, but that was just about the only fault to be found with Rondo's game on April 4.
He was an efficient 4-of-7 from the floor and never forced his shot when it wasn't there.
He helped swing the ball around the perimeter to find open shooters and made some textbook entry passes to Sullinger down on the block.
Rondo preyed upon Philadelphia's young backcourt and was able to get wherever he wanted on the floor. It had simply no answer for his off-the-dribble creativity and ability to navigate in traffic.
Given that a healthy Rondo has always been among the league's leaders in triple-doubles, it was a treat to see him putting up lines like he did back in the 2012 postseason.
Even if it came with a loss to one of the league's laughingstocks.