Post-game Reactions

A few pieces of enjoyable reading on the “re-emergence” of the Celtics point guard around the Internet this morning, while Boston enjoys a well deserved two days off from practice, before hitting the practice floor again Wednesday. For those wondering, it’s almost certain the Celtics will open up their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Heat next Sunday at 3:30 on ABC as long as Miami takes care of business in Game 5 Wednesday night. Now onto the well deserved praise:

Paul Flannery of WEEI.com:

All around the cramped and joyless interview room in the bowls of Madison Square Garden, reporters raised their eyebrows and began working their fingers and thumbs on their mobile devices. Really? Mike D’Antoni went there?

“I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does,” D’Antoni said. The him in question was Rajon Rondo, and to be fair D’Antoni added that he thought Rondo was a good player. “Really, really good,” in fact. Too late.

There was tremendous irony in D’Antoni’s sarcastic aside. Rondo was the player the Timberwolves wanted along with Al Jefferson in the Kevin Garnett trade. Their insistence on including him in the deal held up the transaction for a time, but Celtics president Danny Ainge held firm, and the C’s wound up dealing Sebastian Telfair instead.

Additionally, Rondo was acquired as Phoenix’ first-round draft choice when D’Antoni was the coach there and the Suns were in the business of selling off first-round picks like a day trader selling junk stocks for quick cash. One more bit of history: The team that had the selection immediately ahead of Phoenix? The Knicks, who chose the immortal Renaldo Balkman.

In reality, D’Antoni didn’t say anything that a lot of people haven’t thought at one time or another, and it really boils down to an even simpler question: Just how good is Rajon Rondo really?

The Celtics are done answering those questions. They have lived with him for the last five seasons and they know just how important he is to their overall success even if his funky floor game doesn’t always translate into huge stat lines.

“I’m not answering that,” Paul Pierce said dismissively. “Next question.” To which Rondo added simply, “Everyone has their own opinion.”

The whole notion of disrespect has long been part of professional basketball. In this very arena, in another time, then-New York coach Jeff Van Gundy called Michael Jordan a “con man” for the way he would butter up opponents before tearing their hearts out.

Rondo has a bit of that cold-eyed killer in him, but he’s never expressed any interest in cozying up to his peers. That game doesn’t seem to interest him very much, and as to whether that sort of talk bothers him at all, even his own coach wasn’t sure. Or at least he wasn’t saying.

Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com:

The Knicks did their best to limit Rondo’s ability to get to the rim Sunday. He responded by making 4-of-5 layups. They sat back and challenged him to shoot jumpers and he responded by making 5-of-7 jump shots.

After New York rallied from 23 down to make it a two-possession game, the Knicks were staring at a six-point deficit with less than five minutes to play. They sagged and again challenged Rondo, who stepped up and canned a 13-foot jumper with 4:48 to go to push the lead back to eight. Next trip down, he fed Garnett for a 16-foot jumper and a double-digit lead.

“When [Rondo] plays with that type of energy, we are almost unstoppable,” Pierce said.

Glen Davis echoed those sentiments, pointing to Rondo’s emerging jumper.

“That’s huge for us, because guys are going to not respect Rondo as far as his jump-shot ability,” Davis said. “But now when you go through a series and when you go through the playoffs and you see that, you can’t just leave him wide open. You have to contest that. It’s hard to deal with our team because Rondo is just so electric. He’s just everywhere. He can make things happen from every aspect of the floor.”

Does it surprise Davis that teams still challenge Rondo?

“Well, somebody’s going to learn, you know?” he said. “Point blank.”

The Knicks learned. Their coach learned. Maybe it’s not the best idea to challenge the spunky 25-year-old point guard with a permanent chip on his shoulder.

All Rondo did this series was average 19 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor, and dish out 12 assists per game, which led to an average of 27.5 points per contest, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“He’s tough to guard and you’ve seen that all throughout this series,” Celtics reserve Jeff Green said. “And when he’s going strong, we go.”

Ah yes, the now-familiar adage: “As goes Rondo, so go the Celtics.” Mind you, that expression ignores all of the Big Three, but focuses on the player whom more and more observers are putting in their company as the “big four.”

Players and coaches around the league are learning Boston’s success is directly tied to the play of its point guard. And instead of wondering how good he’d be on another team, maybe coaches should spend their time trying to figure out how to slow him down.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the Knicks earning respect?

The Celtics have plenty of tricks up their sleeves, and an uncanny sense of when to deploy them. There’s the Ray Allen dagger 3-pointer, the Rajon Rondo fake-wrap-around pass leading to a layup, the Paul Pierce step-back jumper, and the wide-open Kevin Garnett 17-footer from either wing.

Then, there comes a time for the cruelest trick of all: the congratulatory postseason kiss-off, which Pierce so deviously delivered to the Knicks on Sunday after sweeping them out of the playoffs.

You know how it goes by now, or should. The Celtics have been doing this for four years, crushing dreams and decimating franchises so often they have perfected it. First came the hugs on the Madison Square Garden court as the final seconds ticked away Sunday in a 101-89 victory over the Knicks. Then came the faux praise — the great-job-now-get-out-of-the-way pats on the back from the interview podium. It’s a diabolical drill, a skill sharpened by much practice and success.

“You didn’t know what to expect from them,” Pierce said after the Celtics became the first participant to advance to what is expected to be an epic conference semifinals series with Miami by drop-kicking the Knicks out of the way in a first round sweep. “Even though we beat them four games, they earned our respect.”

Sure. The way LeBron James twice earned their respect on his way out of the postseason at the ruthless hands of the Celtics, and the way Kobe Bryant and the Lakers did by losing to Boston in the 2008 Finals. On this great run during the Big Three era, the Celtics have given the same atta boys to Dwight Howard and the Magic (2010 conference finals) and Dwyane Wade and the Heat (2010 first round). This is the second time Chauncey Billups has been bounced by Boston, although this time he was on the bench in a suit instead of on the court with the Pistons.

The list of teams and players who have “earned” the Celtics’ respect reads like a who’s-who of NBA royalty. After spending their first few years in the Western Conference, this was the first taste of Boston’s bitter medicine for the Knicks’ star duo of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

“You’ve got to take steps backwards sometimes to move forward,” Anthony said on his long walk out of the Garden on Sunday — a walk toward a future that is on him to determine.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • kricky

    Thanks for the history lesson. Gotta give Ainge a ton of credit for not giving up RR. At the time I seem to remember that everyone was pretty high on 'Bassie. Is the dude even in the league now?

  • talesofJP

    D'Antoni's comments are interesting, how would his coaching career have gone had he not had Nash in Phoenix? Criticisms of Rondo just add fuel to his fire. Bring it on.

    • kricky

      I'm actually happy that he called RR out. He will eat those words.

  • johnschaffer

    it seems rondo , comes out in playoffs like hes the best point guard in basketball.i have to admit i was down on him at times this year ,i wish and pray this summer instead of playing computor games, he goes and plays summer ball with ray allen and learns to shoot ,, he would be the best point guard ever in basketall if he could shoot, look at ,rose, how good he got in one off season , at being a shooter ?????all other factes of his game is top level.

    • JenG

      I don't think you can compare Rondo to Rose. Some people are forgetting that Rose was not a bad shooter before. He gained a 3-point shot and a bit more consistency this season, that's it. It's not like a miracle occurred. And even though Rondo still struggles with his shot, this blog put up the stats a few months back that proved that he's actually gotten better further out. I think he practices a lot more than people think. Like yesterday, during Miami's halftime Rondo was taking shots while Paul, Baby and Delonte were chilling in the locker room (Delonte wasn't even in uniform yet).

  • bleu

    …i just love rondo being unpredictable…that way he would just always leave his opponents clueless of his game…loved that man the first time i saw him play… 🙂

  • Jamie

    D'Antoni has a long history with Phoenix of saying really dumb things. They will run him out of NY pretty soon when they realize his style of play doesn't win rings and never will.

  • talesofJP

    the only way these Knicks become successful is if they get rid of D'Antoni and get a coach who can teach defense. Oh and they need a big aside from Amare too

  • kricky

    Where's Batman? This topic was made for him!

    • someguyinsac

      Seriously, I thought he'd be the first person to post a comment.

      • Batman

        Sadly I was not on fast enough to see this topic….. :*(

        • someguyinsac

          That's alright, but we were thinking bout you and we know how you feel about Rondo being "hot" sometimes. Not in that "way" but the basketball playing way, just so there's no confusion like there was when you posted it way back when. =)

  • skeeds

    this question, about Rondo being overestimated because of the big 3, is just bullshit. I can only answer this way: Name an NBA champion, who didn't get his ring playing with one other superstar or 2 other great players. Not Jordan great, but let's say Rodman great. There is no "franchise player" team to ever win a championship, that I know of, at least.
    Not Kobe's Lakers, not Magic's Lakers, not Jordan's Bulls. Of Celtic teams I won't even mention any, "team first" is how we've done it since allways.

    You cannot dismiss a pg because he's not the Allen Iverson kind of dominant.

  • I_Bleed_Green

    I think Dantonie is right on. Rondo is a good play, very good sometimes. But he is not the type of player who you can build a team around. He just doesn’t have the skill set to be “the man”. Maybe he will continue to improve and be great someday. But right now he’s just a good player playing with great HOF teammates. He can be an important piece of a championship puzzle, nothing more nothing less.

    • Viva

      I think you both are wrong. He is born to be a leader, but right now he is still polite to his HOF teammates, and even that to a certain line. But we'll just have to wait and see who got it right, and who hot it wrong.

  • Morpheus

    Thankyou God. Fate. Destiny. Can you imagine what we'd be like if Danny budged, and traded Rondo instead of Telfair.

    I think you can BUILD around Rondo. He's a very unique player, pg, the epitome of a "pass first pg" or a pure point guard.

    If Danny can get an athletic, dominant big, a la Dwight Howard, to play next to Rondo, the Celtics would be able to sustain their dynasty for another 4-5 years.

  • Loooeee in Meffa

    Rajon Rondo is. It’s a Zen thing. Number 9 just is, and everyone else has to deal with it. Like other Celtic great Dave (we won then I slept on a bench in the Common) Cowens, Rondo is undersized for all the rebounds he gets, and he’s got great hands. If in Minnesota, he would be killer with K Love. Would the other team even GET a rebound? No offense? Please.