Will the Improved Play of Rajon Rondo Be Enough to Carry the Celtics?
How old is too old? The Boston Celtics could very well answer that question for us this season. Since the Celtics won the title in 2008, there has always been talk of the current season being the Big Three’s “last chance.” Experts said it two years ago when Boston lost in the NBA Finals. They also said it last season and many are going with it again this year. With Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce having turned 36, 35, and 34 this year, Boston’s “last chance” may have already slipped away. That is, unless, Rajon Rondo has something to say about it.
When rumors swirled over the winter that Danny Ainge was aggressively pursuing Chris Paul and was trying to sell the Hornets on Rondo, many believed Rondo’s days in Boston were numbered. Either he was going to be traded for CP3 or the rumors would have offended him to the point where he wanted out. Through the first two games of the season, it looks like the trade talks have done nothing but motivate the Celtics offensive leader.
Pessimists who watched the Celtics first two games against the Knicks and Heat would say that they are too old and too slow to keep up with the East’s elite teams. Optimists would argue that Boston had a chance to win both games and had to play without Pierce. They would also point to the fact that Rondo has completely elevated his game. He scored 31 against New York and 22 against Miami, while still recording 13 assists in the first game and 12 in the second. More importantly, Rondo’s jump shot and free throw shooting have improved from a year ago.
Simply put, the sixth-year point guard looks like an unstoppable force on offense. Many have argued that if Rondo could somehow develop a better shot and learn to sink his free throws he would challenge Chris Paul for the title of best point guard in the league. Celtics beat writers insist Rondo worked tirelessly on his jumper over the offseason, and it appears his effort is paying off.
That leads us to the all-important question for the 2010-2011 Celtcs: Will it be enough? Against the Knicks and Heat, K.G. looked the same he has looked for a couple of years now — slow and hobbled. Garnett still clearly lacks trust in his knee and is missing the explosiveness that led the Celtics to their 17th NBA championship four seasons ago. Boston needs not worry about Allen’s offense, but at age 36 it is perfectly reasonable to assume he cannot keep up with younger, more athletic players on defense. Pierce, the Celtics’ captain, has yet to feel healthy enough to suit up. While Jermaine O’Neal has looked decent, his health is always an issue and he isn’t exactly a Kendrick Perkins-type enforcer on the low block.
The good news for Celtics fans is the season has barely begun. If the first two games are any indication, Boston got the better of Orlando in the Glen Davis-Brandon Bass trade. Keyon Dooling has provided a spark off the bench and knocked down some clutch three pointers, reminiscent of James Posey in 2007. If Rondo continues to play like the best point guard in the East and Doc Rivers works his magic to preserve his aging superstars throughout an abbreviated regular season, the Celtics just might stand an outside shot of contending for banner No. 18 when we get closer to the summer.