Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rondo takes his seat at the 'Big Boy Table'

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - I don't have a large family but I've been around plenty of people that do, and the holidays tend to be a very stressful time for them.

A Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, almost inevitably, can offer a bit of comic relief for the outsider.

Whether it's the drunken uncle, the foul-mouthed grandmother or the socially inept sibling, these occasions provide plenty of excuses to keep the Tanqueray-and-tonics flowing.

A tradition at most large family celebrations is the "kids' table" and it's almost a rite of passage to get bumped up to the dining room with all the adults.

Gone are the annoying cousins and the incessant questions from your younger brother about video games or Pokemon cards, replaced by the "Big Boys" regaling you with stories about that time they dropped 22 in their rec-league game.

If an NBA team is like a family, Rajon Rondo was firmly entrenched at the "kids table" for the world champions Boston Celtics last season.

In fact, when general manger Danny Ainge remade the team in the offseason, there were only two questions asked about the loaded C's:

Could All-Stars and future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen co-exist?

And, could a second-year point guard with no jump shot, Rondo, really take Boston to the promised land?

"I feel like I am one of the best in the game already," Rajon Rondo recently said.
A 17th NBA Championship banner answered both questions emphatically.

This time around, things are a bit different.

Garnett, the team's leader, is likely gone for the entire postseason with a nagging knee injury. Fellow forward Leon Powe is also sidelined after shredding his knee and the team's best bench player, Tony Allen, is spending most of his time dodging questions about reported death threats, along with the actual death threats.

As good as Pierce and Ray Allen are, the Celtics are a now just an afterthought to LeBron's Cavaliers and Kobe's Lakers when people talk about the NBA title.

Boston currently finds itself entangled in an extremely entertaining series with the young and improving Chicago Bulls. The set is deadlocked at 2-2 and has been a bit of a coming out party for the young points guards on both teams, the lightning-fast Rondo and the reigning Rookie of the Year, Chicago's Derrick Rose.

Despite a balky ankle and foot, Rondo is actually averaging a triple-double in the series - 23.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 10.0 assists - and Rose, although hot-and-cold, has been nearly as spectacular, netting 19.5 points and dishing out 7.5 assists.

"I feel like I am one of the best in the game already," Rondo recently said. "I have a lot of confidence. I will continue to work on my game. But I play confident regardless to how people may view me."

The NBA, which evaluates the total performance of its players through a convoluted efficiency formula, says the only player on the 16 playoff teams playing better than Rondo right now is LeBron James.

"King" James, who averaged 32.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in Cleveland's four-game sweep of Detroit, has a 39.0 efficiency rating to Rondo's 35.5.

"He has been [the Celtics'] best player in the playoffs, which is saying a lot," ABC analyst and former NBA point guard Mark Jackson told the Boston Globe. "He's been playing outstanding basketball."

Counting the Celtics out of the tile picture because they are struggling with the Bulls may be a bit of a specious argument.

Remember, Boston had to win three pivotal Game 5s during last year's postseason run with Garnett. The Celtics were deadlocked 2-2 in their series with Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit last season, before going on to beat the Hawks and Cavs in seven games and the Pistons in six. They then won the NBA title in six games over the Lakers.

If Rondo sparks a similar run in this year's postseason, Garnett, Pierce and Allen should make room for one more at the "Big Boy Table."

Champs Sports

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