Rondo's stat lines in the past three games remind us why Boston's stoic point guard is both exciting and frustrating to watch.
Let's start with the win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. After being continuously criticized for only showing up in nationally televised games, Rondo dropped a triple-double with what seemed like ease, against one of the worst teams in the league, in a game where anyone outside Boston (including Charlotte) was probably not watching. So much for the theory that Rondo only tries when all eyes are on him.
Then, on Wednesday, in a game where the Celtics wanted to take care of business against the lowly New Orleans Hornets, Rondo produced only seven points in a dismal offensive effort by the entire team. He still managed to record his usual double-digit assists, racking up 11, but his five turnovers were indicative of him forcing passes. When the Celtics were hoisting up jump shot after jump shot and no one could get any rhythm going, Rondo didn't take the reigns and attack the basket. He attempted just eight shots, a perplexing number because he had taken at least 10 field goals in his last six games, five of which resulted in wins. Why did he not look to score more?
Before we could even head back down the all-too-familiar path of questioning Rondo's aggressiveness, he came back in Rondo-like fashion, trolling us with a season-high 30 points in the loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. With Paul Pierce cold the entire game and Kevin Garnett unable to find his touch until the fourth quarter, Rondo decided he was going to try to carry the Celtics to a win. It was nearly the same situation as the one against New Orleans, but this time Rondo took a season-high 21 shots. He showed a confident stroke from mid-range, attacked the basket hard in transition and was anything but scared of getting fouled and heading to the free throw line. The Celtics still lost because, well, you're just not going to win many games when your two leading scorers are having off nights. Nevertheless, Rondo's effort was the only reason Boston nearly stole the win.
Three games. Three different Rondo's. There seems to be no real pattern in predicting what the enigmatic floor general will do night-in and night-out.
In trying to quantify his performance against Chicago, sure you could point to Rondo's motivation to beat the Bulls, against whom he had his previous season-high in points. Even though Derrick Rose wasn't playing, Rondo isn't a fan of the Bulls' star. We've seen Rondo have his disagreements with Kirk Hinrich and he also enjoys going up against former teammate Nate Robinson. Throw in the nationally-televised theory and maybe there isn't really anything more we can read into from his high-scoring game.
Then again, maybe Rondo is slowly turning some sort of corner. With his talent and continued increase in responsibility to score with an aging Pierce and Garnett, Rondo could at any time decide to be a more aggressive player. I wouldn't fault you for not buying it. I mean, "fool me once," right? But it is possible for Rondo to stop being a 13-11 guy and become a 18-9 guy (a la Chris Paul). It's really up to him, at least that's what we all think. Because he can do it in certain contests and at times in the playoffs, we assume he can do it every game. What if Rondo is just (just?) Jason Kidd in his prime with the ability to step up and produce clutch scoring nights in big games? You couldn't complain with that production.
Who knows what Rondo's game will evolve to, if it evolves at all. He'll have nights where he decides to blow by defenders and looks confident in knocking down mid-range jumpers. There will be other nights where he chooses to create for everyone around him and finishes with twice the amount of assists as points.
Which Rondo is better for the Celtics? That all depends on the night and how his teammates are performing. There really isn't much evidence to suggest that Boston wins more when Rondo scores more. His points per game average for his career increase from a modest 10.5 in losses to 11.3 in wins. In fact, there's a greater jump in his assists and rebounds in victories.
Rondo is an impossible personality to predict, but that's what makes him Rondo. That's what makes his highs and lows and everything in between so head-scratching. You probably have no better of an idea of what Rondo's thinking is from reading this, just as I don't have any better of an idea from writing it. Rajon Rondo is the epitome of not being the epitome and maybe that's OK.