|Posted by paul on August 16, 2012 at 9:45 AM|
Celtics fans were thrilled the other day to see a video that Rondo put out on the internet, where he lept to the top of an exercise box, or a structure of some kind, something tall enough that some of us would be happy to be able to look over the top of it. Of course it's not a world record, or anything, but it does suggest that next year's Rondo will elevate his game in the literal sense, at least. He didn't dunk the ball a single time last year, did he? I think he blocked one shot all year long. I don't recall seeing even a single power move to the basket all year. I love it that Rondo does things his own way, and that he seems to take pride in demonstrating that there is more to basketball than dunkadelic dunkathons - and I love it that Lebron James himself, Mr. Dunkadelic, began imitating Rondo's shifty and nifty drives to the basket during the finals last year - but power moves are part of the game too. It will be great to see Rondo add more hops and power to his game next year.
Today Shawn eloquently expressed hopes that I think many of us have that Rondo will elevate his game generally yet again in 2012-2013:
Each lesson learned brings spiritual growth, and emotional growth. Talking about your past will give you the answers in a clear way. Nothing is then seen as psychological. Everything is seen as progression through your spirit. Rondo has to learn from failure. If we learned one thing from last years series loss to Miami. It was that Rondo needed to do more, but the funny was this.
... the Celtics win if they have that firepower with Rondo in 2013 against Miami.
The matchup doesn't come down to Pierce, and James, or KG, and Bosh. The series comes down to Rondo,and James. Which player can utilize their teammates the most. Who can captivate their teammates to do better. Who can motivate their team the most. Who can simply out play their opponent. Nobody on the Heat can guard Rondo. And that should allow Rondo to do whatever it takes to lead the Celtics to win.
Everything rides on Rondo. It's a lot of pressure, but you know he wants it. The seed was planted in the ground last season, and it's time for this thing to blossom. Rondo's growth can come to a peak this season, and that should result in a Celtics championship. Rondo is the most unpredictable player I have ever watched, and that's his greatness. That's his gift. He can become what you need, and what you want. He takes shape like a mutant superhero. He can become Larry Bird for a night, or he can be John Stockton the next night.
I hope you don't mind me quoting this, Shawn. It's just so well written, I think. But when I think about Rondo next year, I continue to think less about elevation than about lateral movement. As I see it, the key to Rondo elevating his game is lateral movement; as Hubie Brown pointed out crushingly on national tv on several occasions, as I recall, there were times last year when opposing guards beat Rondo off the dribble at will, and there were times last year when this hurt us a lot.
We know that Rondo can handle any point guard in the league. We've seen him swallow up players like Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. We know what he is capable of. We also know that Rondo can't necessarily pour out defensive energy the way someone like Avery Bradley can, because Rondo runs the offense, and because he can expect to play something like forty minutes. He is going to have to pick his spots to some degree. But I think that defense will be the key to next year's team even more than it has been in the past few years, and the key to our defense will be Rondo. I also think Rondo's defense will be the key to Rondo establishing himself firmly as the team leader. The perception at times last year was that Rondo was a weak link on the defensive end. He's got to be the leading edge this year of a defense that will rock the league.
And the key to that is lateral movement. Rondo does seem to like to play upright, ready to move in any direction, playing an attack role on defense. He's accomplished a lot with that approach too. But this year we've got to see Rondo balance this more with lateral movement, staying in front of his man and attacking his man's options, pressuring and forcing turnovers, taking time off the clock, etc.. In the end, no one can stay in front of his man 100% of the time in the NBA. The players are obviously too fast, and too skilled for that, and screens will put a dent in the armor of even the best man-to-man defender. Still, we need Rondo to be a 'shutdown' defender more often, the spear-point of our defense.
I have no doubt we will see this. Rondo is someone who pays attention to his critics, even if he'd never admit it. He is also someone who dramatically improves his game each year, and no one needs to tell him, I think, the defense is going to be the key more than ever in 2012-2013.