NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: (L-R) Rajon Rondo #9 and Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics talk on court against the New York Knicks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
We're getting the band back together, boys. It's been almost a month since Ray Allen has seen the parquet and over a week since Rondo suited up at home. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like tonight's game is going to be rocking. It has more of an air of a high school homecoming that it does simply a playoff home game. The team hasn't been whole since even before the season began, but Game 3 will be the first time in a long time that the Big Four will be together in the Garden:
The Big 3 on the Garden Crowd (via bostonceltics)
Rondo and Allen return to the game under totally different circumstances. Ray has dealt with bone spurs in his ankles that has shut him down since April 10th and Rondo is coming back from his one-game suspension from Bumpgate in Game 1. Both ailments, one physical and one--for lack of a better word--mental, are microcosms of where Ray and Rajon are in their respective careers. They say you don't get to know somebody until you see them dealing with adversity and in the last week, I've learned more about these guys watching them off the court than I could ever had on the court.
I always knew that Ray was a creature of habit; his pre-game routine is well documented but I didn't fully appreciate how much it defined him. If you haven't looked at Jessica Camerato's piece on Ray Allen, it's a must read. He's always been more of a leader by example and he's used his regiment to teach younger players on how to succeed in this league and without, he's been "out of control." Rondo, on the other hand, is completely different. In another insightful piece, Jackie MacMullan writes:
And, as it turns out, Rajon Rondo is anything but routine. He broods when things go awry, barely cracks a smile when he is a spectacular success. He has become the most mysterious Celtic of all, a curiosity among the fans, his teammates and his coaches.
But as much of an enigma as Rondo is, they make it work. Ray goes on to say:
"I think we're all strange," Allen admitted. "We all have our idiosyncrasies. It's interesting when other people try to explain what we're all about. We all are operating in our own little worlds. We all have our own ideas, and then we go into what I call the lab, and we try to figure it out.
"I look at it and say, 'This is what I need to be great,' and 'I need some of what he has,' and then I mix it all up in a potion like some kind of mad scientist.
"So I think we all have our own weirdness. We all say and do things that are a little crazy."
As a fan, I want to believe that the Celtics are the same off the court as they are on the court. I picture them maybe catching a movie while on a long road: KG making sure everybody's in the right place before the lights go down, The Captain pumping everybody up despite the crappy reviews, Rondo dishing out popcorn, and Ray making sure the parking ticket gets stamped right before they leave. But that's not true. Well, maybe it is. I don't know. But what I'm sure about is their chemistry when they're playing. Ubuntu is undeniable.
Tonight, it's not going to be the same as when Rondo hit Ray on the break for the transition three that broke Reggie Miller's record, but if Rajon can find Allen in the corner for a trey, it's going to be a special moment. Maybe I'm putting too much into this Game 3, but the anticipation and scrutiny surrounding these guys has been building to a fever pitch and I can't wait to see it.