Road to Title 18: Rajon Rondo Leading Celtics With 2010 Playoff Success

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IMay 23, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 16:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics gestures as he brings the ball up court against the Orlando Magic in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 16, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  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 Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

In Beantown, he's been the Celtics' secret weapon for the past three years. His play has always been noted as being gritty, aggressive, fearless, and determined.

However, in this year's NBA playoffs, he has truly emerged from the shadow of the Big Three, often directing and leading this season's Boston Celtics in the paint, either coming up with an unthinkable assist or a mind-boggling drive to the basket, almost oblivious to who's defending him.

Rajon Rondo's play in the second quarter with under 8:45 remaining defined his character, as well as the mentality of this year's cast of veterans and young guns in Boston.

As the ball broke loose toward old Lucky's logo on the center court, there was that 6'1'' point guard, hustling to the parquet floor for the ball in a mad dash against his Orlando Magic counterpart Jason Williams.

What's the best way to describe that magnificent play, which resulted in a successful drive to pad the Celtics' double-digit lead?

"I just wanted it," Rondo said following the 94-71 shellacking in Game 3.

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A few years ago, he was just the former standout hoops star from Kentucky who was eclipsed by his peers like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.

Titled by fans and media as the new "Big Three," it was the trio of veterans who are usually given the expectation and attention to lead Boston back to championship glory.

That exact scenario happened just two seasons ago, against their West Coast nemesis in the form of the Los Angeles Lakers.

In one of the most highly contested and competitive finals in recent times, NBA fans were delighted to a bit of the 1980s, with marquee players like LA's Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Boston's triumvirate.

Lurking in the green's greatness was a then-23-year old Rondo, learning the system in Boston and maturing into a prominent star in the league.

With a championship in 2008, the cards looked just about right in the '08-09 season, with an 18th title somewhat realistic despite the emergence of other Eastern Conference powerhouse teams like the Cleveland Cavilers and Orlando Magic.

Beset by injuries and all-around chemistry problems within the team, Boston would get ousted in a memorable but heartbreaking Eastern Conference semifinals against Orlando, with the Magic besting the Celts, 4-3.

Perhaps following in an old Klingon proverb that "revenge is a dish best served cold," it has been all vengeance for a team that was deemed "too old," "too slow," and not good enough to beat Cleveland, much less Orlando.

Miami was at least given, at best, a decent chance to upset Boston, but even Dwyane Wade's play wasn't enough to hold off the Celtics in the quarterfinals.

LeBron James was in the midst of his make-it or break-it season for the Cavs, having to win a title if fans in the city of rock 'n roll were going to have any hopes of retaining their sensational hometown hero.

Instead, the only mention that "The King" has been getting in the Conference Finals is his future in the league, with plenty of suitors willing to dish out the dough for James' services.

Why is it that Boston, a team that wasn't exactly the talk of the town all season long, has emerged as a true title favorite?

While the talk is getting old, this player has made me a believer as to why Boston's chances of an 18th title isn't so unrealistic. And of course, that player is...Rajon Rondo.

For Boston fans, he's as feisty and ambidextrous as Phoenix's Steve Nash, as versatile as Allen Iverson, and a truly gritty competitor on the court as the many greats before him in Boston.

As for Orlando fans, who are hoping for a comeback in this so-far one-sided series, Rondo has been the bane of their nightmares, with his quick play and hustle annoying Magic aficionados like Joe DeRosa's tolerance with a spectator in Game 2.

Under the tutelage of head coach Doc Rivers, Rondo has blossomed, not only on the court with his spectacular play, but on the bench, offering his insight and input with his teammates as to how to approach their next offensive and defensive attack.

That said, his fine play is backed up by "The Big Three," as well as the emergence of backup forward/center Rasheed Wallace, forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis, guard Tony Allen, and starting center Kendrick Perkins.

Each of those players have contributed tremendously in the playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Cleveland and in the conference finals vs. Orlando.

To say that Rondo is a catalyst for this season's Boston Celtics isn't tomfoolery, truly reemphasizing the concept of teamwork and selflessness on the field of play in each contest.

Bringing in a fresh set of ideas and somewhat bridging the gap of the feel-good starting cast and the blue-collar benchwarmers, it's no wonder why the true leader of this team is the 24-year old from Louisville, Ky.

Regardless of whether Boston is able to win title 18 this year or in the foreseeable future, what's certain is that the postseason has truly been the initiation of a new NBA star named Rajon Rondo.

No longer is he the quiet background player whose number of assists surpassed Bob Cousy's single-season record of 713.

If Cousy was known as the "Houdini of the Court," perhaps we can dub Rondo as the "David Blaine of the Paint," as he logged 794 dishes this season.

With his fine leadership abilities, maturity, and willingness to get the "W" on the board for Boston, it might not be so far-fetched to be talking about the 2010 NBA finals with the Celtics representing the highly competitive Eastern Conference.

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