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Fuel Check: Rajon Rondo


The Celtics allowed the Clippers to put up a spectacular offensive efficiency rating of 114.9 points/100 possessions in Wednesday’s game. Fair blame went to a number of culprits including Nenad Krstic, the Celtics’ tendency to take lesser opponents lightly, a brand-new bench mob that barely knew each other’s names much less the defensive systems, and pointedly, the porous perimeter defense which allowed Mo Williams to go off for 28 points and forced the rest of the Celtics into rotational havoc when Clipper attackers stormed the paint.

Rajon Rondo took a fair amount of blame for the breakdowns and he was not without fault. In one grisly stretch in the fourth quarter, Rondo fouled Williams on a three-point attempt, left Williams alone at the arc to splash down another three, got outrun in transition, got blown by on a pick and roll when he reached in looking for a steal, didn’t get around a pick, which set up another open Williams three-ball, and let Williams drive past him and dish the ball for a dunk.

Why did Rondo play so poorly on D down the stretch?

This is why:

He was gassed.

Rondo played 43 minutes on Wednesday, including the entire second half. For the year, the Celtics’ PG is averaging 38.0 minutes per game, which is 10th most in the league. His minutes per month totals are trending disturbingly: 36.1 in January, 39.0 in February and 40.5 so far in March.

This is more than a bit worrying if you’re anticipating needing Rondo for 40+ minutes a night against the class of the Western Conference in June.

Doc Rivers is to be forgiven for playing Rondo heavy minutes for a few reasons: the kid is young and more than willing to stay on the floor for long stretches, the Celtics need his shot creation abilities on offense, and, of course, with Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Avery Bradley being unreliable for reasons of — respectively — injury, unsuitability and incompetence, Rivers had few other palatable choices over the first 60 games, save running Paul Pierce into the ground with point forward duties.

Rondo was a step behind Williams even in the first quarter Wednesday night. But he was consistently fighting over picks and had sufficient energy to play both ends of the floor. By the fourth quarter, that had changed. And it wasn’t the first time we’d seen him on the court in 2011, with his fuel tank red lining.

Which is why Rivers has to manage his point guard’s minutes more carefully down the stretch.

Delonte West is targeted for a return in the next week (allegedly Sunday), but we’ve heard that story before and it didn’t end happily.

So if West doesn’t return, Carlos Arroyo, who is neither injured nor unsuitable nor incompetent can’t just be an end of the bench player for the next five weeks. He needs real minutes on the court so 1) he’s ready if West’s health proves a problem into the spring and 2) so the Celtics can get Rondo enough rest to prime him for the playoffs.

  • Chris O

    I think that Rajon needs to do conditioning with Ray Allen more often. Look at that picture. Ray might as well have just woken from a nap, had a coffee and just put down his paper. Rondo is STRAIGHT GASSED. I will not criticize Rondo for being overworked and possibly not 100% (I think he is still nursing previous injuries this year), but he needs to take his conditioning up a notch. He is already a top 15 player in the league. But if he gets more conditioned and a good jumper he could be top 10 maybe even top 5. Boi is that good.

    • Batman

      I'm a huge Rondo homer but Top 15? That's a little generous
      A top 25 is more like it in my opinion. I could see Top 20 too.
      But he is rapidly improving.

      • Chris O

        Yes top 15. Not being generous or a homer. Name 15 players better. You can't. I would put Bosh top 20, possibly 15 and Rondo is a better player than him. You do realize he averages over 12 assists, leads the league and also leads the league in steals? He is an All-Star, so by default SHOULD be a top 24 player. Not to mention he is one of those All-Stars that made the team easy and was almost a starter (but Rose did deserve it). I'd say Rondo's somewhere near 13th, 14th, or 15th best player in the league.

        • I_BLEED_GREEN


      • Guest

        Ray would look like that if he'd played "43 minutes on Wednesday, including the entire second half. For the year averaging 38.0 minutes per game… His minutes per month totals trending::36.1 in January, 39.0 in February and 40.5 so far in March."

        Ray would look like that too. There are nights when Ray get's a rest or (as recently) asks for a day off in practice because his legs are sore. I'm very happy he does this, its not a knock… and granted he probably does work harder than Rondo at the nuances because Rays routine is like a decade old haha… but 40 minutes a night is 40 minutes a night. Monta Ellis can do it because he only plays ONE END OF THE FLOOR. Rondo has the ball in his hands CONSTANTLY and his ball harassing defense is critical to the teams D… He has a right to be gassed, it's not a lack of commitment on his part at all

        • Chris O

          You realize Ray plays 36.2 MINS a game and 37 that night right? So someone 10 years older than Rondo is playing almost as many mins a game, running around WAY more (they tracked a few games he runs like 7 miles a game I think) and is very rarely this gassed yet I should excuse Rondo for playing a lot of mins??? Am I mad at Rondo, no, but he needs to work on this

      • rondeezy

        rondos 6th in line for mvp

    • Devin_in_Maine

      Agreed. Try watching Ray on a couple possessions in a row regardless where the ball is. He never stops running. He goes sideline to sideline several times on every offensive possession, and he's way older than Rondo. Now I'm a big Rondo guy, but I heard Rondo say recently that he's at the age where he can eat whatever he wants, compare that to Ray who has a nutritionist map out basically every calorie he eats for the entire season. Sure, Doc needs to find away to rest Rondo for the playoff run, but Rondo could do more with his physical conditioning.

      • Chris O

        Yep, he needs to take things serious now. Ray has always been serious. Its why he is who he is today. Look at Kobe shotting after a game because of a loss. Rondo could do that too. Not knocking Rondo but you get out what you put in

        • ElRoz


  • Batman

    Not one mention of the new Rojan Rando meme Ryan? Tsk tsk, I'm disappointed

  • Scott

    ARROYO! This dude needs to play, and CAN play. Doc is a great coach, but has new players on a leash that i believe is too short at times. Rondo needs to play 35 mins a game until the playoffs, excluding games against SA, Chicago, and Miami…maybe. He's worn out. I remember watching him in the beginning of the year when he was fresh and thinking… Holy SH** he looks unstoppable. he is stoppable when he is hurt (who isnt) and when he is tired (which he is). He needs a break, and Doc is going to have to realize the offense will survive with Paul and Arroyo dictating while Rondo is on the bench for 6 mins a half. 3 mins a quarter? That should be enough. Take him out at the 9min mark of every quarter, and rest him until the 6-5:30 mark, and let him finish the quarter/half/game. I think we are going to start to see Doc rest the players a little so that they are ready to rumble come playoffs, but with the most amount of caution possible because we do not want to give up number one.

    Which brings me to my next point… if Rondo IS tired, Rose will exploit the SH** out of him. Rondo is a good defender, but not when he is tired, forced to guard one of the best PG's in the league, and MVP, as well as run the offense, it wont happen, and i hope we dont lose in the conference finals to an under experienced team due to our PG being out of Gas. We need to rest Rondo in order to secure our trip to the finals.. HAS to happen. Everyone else who is healthy looks real fresh (e.g. paul pierce dunking, Ray shooing out of his mind, KG looking like a stud night in and night out, Krstic going for 20-9 the other night). Rest Rondo. Play Arroyo. MESSAGE TO DELONTE – FIGURE IT OUT.

    Go C's

  • ElRoz

    Delonte has been unrelibale, period. Don't forget that he misse a lot of games dues to his supension…then came the injuries. Why look for different reasosn: he is just an unreliable guy to have.
    The C's only "strategy" should be to use the starters to build leads and then give the new bench some time to squander them, but at least have rested starters.

    Meanwhile, I kow Troy Murphy is planning to "go deep in the playoffs" but he better work hard and fast, otherwise he'll be in street clothes on the bench. It's time to contibute…grab some boards or something Troy !

  • skeeds

    I've allways had one and only one problem with Doc. He's too tight in his rotations. He doesn't easily allow new people in, and is a strict 3 lineups-9 man rotation in the finals kind of coach.
    I understand that, firstly, the C's are a team that wins because of its playbook. Strategy, cohesiveness and chemistry is what makes this team #1 and it can't change. Even if the C's traded for Carmelo, he'd ease him into the system instead of throwing him in. And secondly, as pointed out in the previous post, the #1 seed is too important to risk this year. Everybody knows this. Ray has been on the court allmost all the time. Pierce and Garnett played for many games without a backup.

    Still. Arroyo isn't a roster filler. He is a great PG, he's in top form, he's furious, and he can deliver. So I'd rather we go to him right now rather than risk Rondo's health. I hope we don't have to ride Rondo like last year, through the season and the playoffs. Last year we had Nate as backup, this year with Arroyo and hopefully Delonte Doc should be much more comfortable resting his pg…

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