Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Rajon Rondo has come a long way since 2007. He's poised to continue moving forward in 2012, a year of new faces, new chances and new beginnings for the Boston Celtics.
Leadership takes time. For Rajon Rondo, it has taken time and some getting used to, but much like he has with everything that has happened to him during his time in Boston, he has taken it in stride. The talented point guard will begin the 2012 season with supreme control of the Boston Celtics offense, with all the tools to make the right calls and get the most out of a Boston Celtics squad that is hungry for another NBA title.
Coming off of a season in which his assist numbers rose to career-high season averages, Rondo will be looking for more ways to get a Celtics offense involved that was lethargic, yet methodical last season. With a number of new weapons to utilize on the offensive side of the ball, an area of interest for those looking to see how much he has developed will be how often he looks to score on his own.
Last season, Rondo took an increased amount of shots per game (10.8, up from 9.9), a number reflective of the way defenses keyed in on him. Teams continued to try to blanket his other options and go under screens, forcing Rondo to take matters into his own hands and either commit to driving into the paint or settle for a mid-range jumper.
His usage percentage, or the percentage of team plays used while a certain player was on the floor, was also higher during the 2011-2012 season than at any point during his entire career (20.7%). This is a testament to the trust head coach Doc Rivers has in his point guard.
This season should be no different. Now 25-years-old, Rondo has seen enough in his days in the NBA to know what is expected of him as the leader of the band. And he appears ready to fulfill any of those duties the coaching staff requests of him.
Rondo is coming off his strongest statistical performance in the playoffs since he entered the league in 2007. He averaged 17.3 points per game, 11.9 assists per game, 6.7 rebounds and posted the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of his career in the playoffs (22.0). There's not a high chance his numbers continue to look that strong throughout an entire NBA season. However, he has the opportunity to continue building on last season's success and only get stronger as a player.
The oft-criticized oddball of the Celtics' starting five recently organized a trip for the entire team to Los Angeles. The trip was used to build chemistry with a Boston roster made up of a number of new names. Names like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass are familiar amongst Boston faithful, but Rondo indicated recently that the trip was more to get the lesser-knowns -- Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Fab Melo -- acquainted with how the Celtics carry themselves.
That task, gathering teammates to make a cross-country trip for the sole purpose of getting to know teammates and building friendships and chemistry, is something only a leader does. For Rajon Rondo, that's a title that has taken some time to adjust to, but one he has earned and grown to deserve over the Celtics' last few seasons.
A point guard in a Doc Rivers system that demands smart decision making and sound understanding of the offense, Rondo wasn't handed control of the Celtics offense without reason. His development over his career, namely the past two seasons, showed the coaching staff and Doc Rivers exactly what they needed to see -- a point guard capable of leading a roster of future Hall of Famers.
Now, in 2012, he has an opportunity to continue cementing his name into Celtics lore. Already the owner of all-time great performances, both in the regular season and the playoffs, Rondo can further become a Celtics legend with the way he handles the weight of a revamped roster on the court for him to command.
With the departure of Ray Allen, a name that has become associated with ill-feelings when it comes to his relationship with Rondo, the 6-foot-1, 171-pound point guard will have to integrate new pieces into the new Boston Celtics offense. Doc Rivers noted during the offseason that Boston's pace will have to take a step up, an indication that the younger Celtics squad will run as often as possible in 2012.
That's a situation in which Rajon Rondo thrives. With young legs like Courtney Lee and Jeff Green running the floor with him, along with Jason Terry, a guard that has been lauded by the Celtics' coaching staff as a player that can create his own shot off the dribble, the new-look Celtics should be poised for another run, literally, at a championship.
And in the center of it all is a strong, mysterious point guard with a myriad of adjectives used to describe him. This season, he's hoping to add "leader" to that list.