Rajon Rondo Is the Boston Celtics' New Main Man

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IMay 8, 2009

BOSTON - MAY 06:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics goes up for a shot against Dwight Howard #12 and Rafer Alston #1 of the Orlando Magic  in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 6, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As I watched the start of the second game of the Lakers vs Rockets series, it was evident that Kobe Bryant was in the mind frame that he was not going to let the Lakers lose Game Two. 

After losing at home in Game One to the Rockets, Bryant knew how important it was to win Game Two.  He did not want to go down 0-2, and then need to win 4 of the next 5, three of which would be on the road.

A team’s’ best player should have that kind of attitude. Show your teammates right off that there’s no BS tonight. When the best player is like that, it gives the rest of the team confidence, and sends a signal to them. It lays the foundation for the type of effort that will be needed by all. 

And when that best player is a great player like Kobe, he often is able to have a huge effect. I know from personal experience—I did play with Julius Erving—that when a great player goes to that next level, it sets a tone and gives the rest of the team great confidence.  

Plus, it is often very demoralizing to the opposition. It is the team’s best player’s responsibility to step it up, whether at the beginning of a game, or at a certain point in a game, to give the aura of  “I’m not going to let us lose”. That’s what leadership is all about.

I’d say that is exactly what Kobe did in Game Two. He came out  focused and on fire, goes for 40 points on 16-27 shooting. That’s getting the job done. 

Now switch to Game Two in the Boston-Orlando series. Same situation that the Lakers were in, a near must win. So who would step up for Boston? Who would not let Boston get in a position to lose? Rajon Rondo.

Man, what a fine game he played and on a team with the much balleyhooed Big Three. Where was the Big Three? Well, Garnett’s hurt, Allen played well, but Pierce was no where to be found. 

Rondo, you could find. Yes, I know House had a big game too, but not like Rondo’s game. 

Watching that game, one came away with the feeling that Rondo was just not going to let the Celtics lose. He not only had the numbers—another triple double with 15 points, 11 boards, 18 assists—but more importantly, he had that attitude

I think he is proving to be the man on the Celtics, absent Garnett. I know he’s not the prototypical point guard like a Nash, or a Stockton, or a Cheeks. However, he is becoming Boston’s leader, not only like a point guard, but also like a “team’s best player”.

Coming out of school and entering the draft, Rondo had a lot of doubters. People were always pointing out the things he couldn’t do. He was not a great shooter, didn’t play as a point. 

There were questions about his leadership, his size. But people forgot about his assets. He’s a terrific athlete, with blazing speed. Big hands, good handle. Could defend, and would flat out compete.

A true fact about the NBA is that as players stay in the league, almost all improve in their ability to shoot the ball. Good shooters become very good, very good shooters become great shooters, poor shooters become passable shooters. 

That is because players in the NBA spend so much time shooting, usually under supervision. They shoot before practices, during practices, after practices.  They shoot at shoot-arounds. They shoot before games. They shoot in the summer. 

I had a player in Detroit, Lindsey Hunter, who had a key to the Pistons’ practice facility so that he could come in and shoot at night, all season long. The point is, players have a lot of opportunity to shoot the ball, and they do. 

Rondo, who was an average shooter, at best at Kentucky, has become a passable shooter. He only had to improve enough that people had to respect him and then had to play him honestly. He has done that, which has opened up his entire offensive game. 

Combine that with his athleticism, toughness and competitiveness, and he has become a terrific player and leader.

During the Bulls series, Jaime wrote that he thought that Paul Pierce was overrated when people said he was a great player and compared him with Lebron, Kobe and Wade. Some people had conniptions over his assessment. 

Jaime felt that Garnett had been the man for the Celtics, not Pierce.  Arguably, Pierce now has become the fourth most important player for the Celtics in this series vs. the Magic, behind Rondo, Allen and Perkins. 

I have said before that I have always had a great deal of respect for Pierce, and what he has accomplished. He has been a terrific player, but in a ”must” game like Game Two Wednesday night, a great player does not disappear and let other guys on the team assume the responsibility for winning or losing.

Rondo certainly did step up. It’s fun to see a player develop like he has. This should be a close series.  Losing Rafer Alston for a game, and the question marks about Courtney Lee certainly have not helped the Magic. 

Let’s see if the Magic’s young Dwight Howard will step up and dominate in these two home games, or will Rondo continue to be the man.


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