|Posted by paul on October 13, 2012 at 6:55 AM|
Watching Celtics practice was a nice treat for Celtics fans yesterday. One of the most interesting parts was Rondo's interview with the talking heads after practice, in which he said that he did not expect to replicate his playoff numbers from last year during the regular season, partly because he did not expect to play as many minutes. Rondo even said that he wouldn't mind playing a lot less minutes, as long as the team was winning.
I think Rondo is choosing his words very carefully. Doc apparently expects him to play a lot of minutes, while most likely replicating his playoff numbers, since he says that he thinks Rondo will be an MVP candidate. He and Danny and Pierce have made it clear that they expect Rondo to bring his big-game game every game this year. I think fans are expecting something like 15 ppg, 13 apg, 3 spg and 5 rpg. I suspect most fans expect Rondo to be pushing forty mpg, while everyone else is somewhere between 20 and 30 mpg. My guess is that Rondo expects all that too, but at the same time, he doesn't want to focus on numbers. He wants to focus on winning. Also, he doesn't want to separate himself from his teammates, even though everyone is pretty much expecting him to be a kind of puppetmaster/ringmaster/ringleader.
In other words, I think Rondo is taking care to lead with his words, as well as his play. The emphasis is on team. But most of us surely expect the emphasis on this team to be on the player it appears to have been pretty much built around - Rondo.
At the same time, it's a good idea to think back to the 2010 season. That season too Rondo came into camp with a fierce determination to drive the team to a championship, and Boston fans may never forget the way he set the league on fire during the first month of the season. It was astounding. I would say that rarely has one player so dominated the league for a month. We got used to Rondo flirting with 20 assists every night. We may see some of that this year.
Boston fans also probably remember the way Rondo came down with plantar fascitis that season, and this in turn seemed to lead to other injuries, sich as a hamstring. Plantar Fascitis is a crippling injury, I think. I've had it, and I can say, based on my own experience, that I felt for Rondo when I heard that he had it. It was impossible for me to understand how he played with that ailment. I think it affected his game a lot too. I think it was after the plantar fascitis that Rondo seemed to play with less grit and intensity on defense, and he seemed to pick his spots a lot more on both ends of the floor, and from game to game.
Rondo has been making a lot of comments recently about how much he has learned to value taking care of his body, so that he can have a long career, and he has repeatedly mentioned massages as part of his body-care routine. We also saw this summer that Rondo made quite a point of letting the world know that his athleticism is back (posting videos of his box jump, etc.). I think there is a mixed message going on. I think Rondo is saying that he plans to go all out like he did in 2010, only more so, but that he is also concerned not to get plantar fascitis again, and to avoid other physical debilitations as much as he can. Somehow Rondo seems to be planning a season that covers both bases, going all out, while making sure to take good care of his body, while not pushing so hard that he debilitates himself early in the season.
There is going to be a balancing act.
But it's going to be a tough line for Rondo to walk. Based on the way this team is built, and based on the way Doc is talking about it, I think we can expect them to come at the opposition in waves. We are such a deep team. We've been built to do that. But while the commentariat is making much of Doc's Mad Scientist tendencies, the real 'mad scientist' is surely Rondo. Rondo is the one who will be orchestrating all this, and as I've said over and over again, I think this has to happen on both ends of the floor. Increasingly, Rondo is as important to our defense as he is to our offense. What makes our depth so dangerous is that we have a floor leader who is brilliant at understanding the talents of each player, because he loves the game as miuch as he does, and genuinely appreciates the particular ability to shine that each player has. Because we have a very intelligent and motivated team, and a floor leader with a deep knowledge of the game, despite his youth, our depth can give us more than the ability to hold out longer than the other team, though it should give us that. It can give us the ability to come at opponents in so many different configurations that we confound them more than we confound ourselves.
I believe that Rondo will get spot rest more than long periods of rest during most games. I know that is an unusual approach, but it seems to me that this is an unusual team. I imagine that Doc and Rondo will continue to experiment all season long to find the best ways to work with the plethora of talent on hand. But the best way to get rest is to 'put teams away' early.
I know that the NBA is a tough league. There are no pushovers. Any team that is taken lightly can rise to the occasion even against a much better team. I'm not saying that 'putting teams away' will be easy. But I think most of us can agree that the Celtics of the past five years have tended to play for the fourth quarter win. I'd like to see this team play more for the first and third quarter wins. A team that is hit hard right away will have a hard time recovering against our depth, and then everyone gets to rest. I think the way to get rest is to take control of games early, and then keep a solid foot on the gas pedal the rest of the way. I think that this is how real championship teams try to do it, and I believe the Cs when they declare themselves to be a championship team.
I hate to use the phrase 'killer instinct', but it's the way people usually refer to what I am talking about. Get after teams, establish superiority, and keep the pressure on, avoiding pitched battles in the fourth quarter. I think that's the best way to keep minds and bodies fresh.