It was the Rajon Rondo show in the first half of tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings. While Rondo didn't do a whole lot of damage in the scoring department, it was his flashy passing and dribbling that had the Garden crowd on their feet. On top of that, in the second quarter Rondo broke Rick Fox's single season record for steals and got a well deserved standing ovation from the crowd when it was announced on the loud speaker.
"It may mean more to me once I retire or get away from it, but right now I'm just focused on winning," said Rondo after the game. "It's a great accomplishment. This organization has won so many championships and had some great players come through; so many perennial all-stars... for me to come and set one record here, and hopefully down the line another record. But at the end of the day, I'm just trying to focus on getting wins."
Rondo's teammates joked with him when he set the season record for most steals.
"My teammates said I have the record for the most steals and the most gambles in one season," Rondo laughed. "I don't know if you keep that stat."
Kevin Garnett immediately chimed in and joked that they do in fact keep that stat.
"We keep it. [Jeff] Twiss (Celtics VP of media relations) has it. He just hasn't told us, don't worry about it."
"It was a funny moment when I got the ovation," said Rondo smiling. "The entire bench said it- ‘You got the most steals in one season and the most gambles.' I wasn't aware of the gambles."
The Celtics as a team had 25 assists on 36 field goals made. Eighteen of those assists came from Rajon Rondo, a new career high. Rondo, who says the team's assist record means more to him than the team's steals record, moved past Sherman Douglas for second place for the single season record amount of assists. He trails Bob Cousy's 1959-60 record of 715 assists by 19. With the way Rondo has been playing, there is an outside chance he could pass Cousy on Sunday night against the San Antonio Spurs. If not, he will get another chance at home on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"That stat is just guys making shots," said Rondo. "Kevin made a lot of shots, Ray made shots as well. The team made shots tonight, I just tried to get them the ball. What I was proud about was the assist-turnover ratio. So I was trying to keep taking care of the ball. There were times I turned down a couple shots because I was trying to pass it but other than that I was happy with taking care of the ball and keeping our turnovers down."
While Rondo is quick to credit the team for making his assist numbers so high, Garnett knows just how important Rondo is to this team and he makes sure Rondo knows it as well.
"I'm totally being honest here. I tell him that he affects the game in so many different ways and when he's frustrated I try to relay that message to him. I try to repeat it in his head so at some point he understands. I love him because he's a student of the game, you know, he's hot headed like all of us but at the same time he wants it more than any other player on here. And that's what you want. You want your point guard setting the tone every night, you want your point guard leading us. I'm telling you man, he's just growing up in front of us. It's great to watch."
Garnett also stated that Rondo is much more outspoken now than he used to be. When Garnett first played with Rondo, Rondo was much more reserved, something that Garnett joked that sometimes he misses. Asked to compare Rondo with previous point guards that Garnett has played with, Stephon Marbury and Chauncey Billups, Garnett had even more praise for Rondo.
"Rondo just doesn't score the ball, he's just as intelligent as Steph or Chauncey, but he's probably more active on defense. He's strong enough, he's tall enough, and he's long enough to come in and get you 10, 12 rebounds if you want to. At the same time he sees the same plays before they happen. He affects the game in more than one area- more than three areas if you ask me. He's aggressive, all three of the guys I've just named were aggressive. But if he had anything that sort of put him over the other two that I mentioned it's because he is so active. Steph, like I said, was a great assist guy, a great scorer. Chauncey could score the basketball. But the defensive intensity and level were nowhere near the same as this guy (Rondo). I think as he grows, it depends on how hungry he is and wants to mature his game. I tell him this all the time, it's up to him to whether he wants to be a prolific scorer but at the same time just affecting the game in so many different areas is huge."
With the ball in the open court, Rondo is one of the most lethal players in the league. He can do so many nifty things with the ball and at full speed too. With the style of play the Celtics use at times, sometimes this speed and transition basketball that Rondo is capable of is not used enough. The more this team gets Rondo to run in transition, the quicker they will run the opposition out of the building.
"When we get multiple stops it makes Rondo unbelievable," said Coach Doc Rivers. "I think our team knows that now. I think they absolutely understand that if we can get three, four, five, six stops in a row, it allows us to be a running team and it allows Rondo to get the ball in transition. Paul and Ray are running wide, Kevin is running down the middle. It makes Rondo really good. It's the best chance for him to be great and I think our team is starting to get that message, and I think it's vital for us come playoff time because when we become a halfcourt [team] then that's the guy they help off of. When we become open court, he's got the ball and you can't help off of him."
One example of this fast break offense came in the second quarter. Rondo once again showed his flash and creativity, this time using Sean May as his victim.
"Oh, the one I got Sean May with?" Rondo joked. "I actually tried it against Denver last game. It worked, but I made the pass to Ray and it was a turnover. This time I said I wasn't going to turn the ball over... I'm sure probably on the scouting report a lot of guys probably think I do the fake behind the back and keep it, but this time I just actually threw it and he went for it and I took it and just laid the ball up simple as that."
Sean May getting Rondo'd:
record breaking steal: