Merry Christmas Eve, ya’ll.
Exactly 364 days ago, the Celtics were on a 19-game winning streak and all was good in Bean Town and for satellite Celtics fans scattered all over.
When we rolled into LA on Christmas Day last year, the game was brewing to be a holiday classic, with both teams battling until the last four minutes.
Then the Lakers embarrassingly shut down the Celtics with a 13-2 run. The Celtics had no answers, while the Lakers held court at home in front of a festive crowed.
Then the post-holiday traumatic skid happened.
The Celtics lost a bunch of games.
KG went down with a mysterious knee injury.
Blah blah blah.
But in the midst of their 19-game winning streak, there was plenty of clatter around the league and fanbase that Rajon Rondo was a potential all-star.
The remaining PG spot was either going to Rondo, Jameer Nelson, or Mo Williams.
But once the Celtics went on their bend when nothing went well on the West Coast road trip following the Lakers game, Rondo was held at fault.
Fingers were wrongfully pointed at Rondo.
He had a few games with too many turnovers and bad decisions, he was so hesitant to shoot anything outside of 10 feet, and teams started to coin the phrase “The Blueprint for how to beat the Celtics: Just lay off Rondo and give him space.”
Teams were putting a big on Rondo, giving him space so 1) defenders couldn’t get burned by his blistering speed and 2) to expose his biggest weakness: his jumper.
The Celtics' sub par play destroyed any hopes that Rondo had to make the East’s All-Star team as a reserve.
Literally: the team’s poor play was pinned on Rondo.
Last year, we heard all too many times (including from me): As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.
Well guess what?
We find ourselves in a similar predicament: As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.
I am unabashedly in love with Rondo’s style of play. Being a fan of basketball and a basketball player since 4th grade, watching Rondo play is intoxicating.
He does all of the things that I wish I could do on a court and better yet, he is the kind of point guard that I’ve been waiting for to adorn the historic Celtic green jersey.
As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.
There’s also an eerie similarity between last season and this one about Rondo being in the thick of All-Star consideration talk.
We know fans are too stupid to vote Rondo in as a starter, which is fine.
I actually think being voted in as an All-Star reserve by coaches is much more prestigious and meaningful.
Let’s just face the facts: Your run of the mill fans that are voting 8,000 times per day are morons.
Rondo has a great chance of being a 2010 All-Star, which should hopefully be the first of many.
Here is the difference between last year and this year, though: Rondo is infinitely better than last year.
I’ve already chronicled all of the reasons that Rondo is a monster point guard this year and all of the ways he has added another dimension and level to his game, so I won’t bother doing it here.
But know that in a conference where no other PG has performed like Rondo (Deven Harris = injuries, Jameer = lower numbers and injuries, Mo Williams = punk ass free-loader, Derrick Rose = not noticeably better than last year and inconsistent and on a dysfunctional team, Mike Bibby = same as last year but his much improved supporting cast is making him look better, Gilbert Arenas = inconsistent as Tiger’s alibis, Brandon Jennings = not yet, Lou Williams = injuries), No. 9 really has to be the clear choice for a reserve role on the bench.
For the next two-plus weeks, Rondo will again face his All-Star test: is he ready, worthy, and capable?
Like the post-Christmas Day game last year, the Celtics take a grueling road trip over the next few weeks and will be tested on numerous occasions. Much like last year as well, the battleground for whether or not he makes the All-Star team will hinge upon how he carries this team without Paul Pierce and an injured KG.
With too many vague comments from management, who knows how long Pierce will be out?
With too many vague comments from management, who knows what KG’s status will be for each game?
The simple and strategic move is to obviously rest these guys as much as possible and let the team scrap together its wins.
We are playing for June, not January.
With that said, however, it’s time for Rondo to step up and prove his critics wrong once again.
The schedule is tough, but nothing near impossible.
If Rondo can stay focused, be aggressive for every minute he’s on the floor, then he should carry this team to win 75 percent of their games.
For the guys that claim Rondo has the easiest PG job in the East because of his supporting cast, here’s the opportunity for Rondo to show what it’s like to not have three aging veterans on the court at the same time.
Without KG and Pierce (or a sixth man like Quisy), the Celtics turn into a team that’s a shade above .500. So if Rondo is able to carry this team to a successful road trip over the next couple of weeks, what will the haters say then?
Oh, that’s right, they’ll say this: Rondo is as good as we think he is AND he is, in fact, without any hesitation, a 2010 All-Star.
Rondo has freakishly large hands and an abnormally long wingspan, but did you also know he’s got some boulders for shoulders?
It’s the kind of shoulders where a young, cocky, uber-talented PG can carry an entire team on for a couple of weeks while its' veteran leaders heal up.