Rondo, Team Improve in KG’s Absence
The Celtics started the season with one of the best offenses in the league and carried that up until just after their first west coast swing. The team had the 1st ranking in team FG% and was top 5 in asst/FG, points, 3 pt shooting, and points in the paint-all in all quite a showing for a unit thrown together over the summer.
But the team was overly-reliant on GPA early in the year, a clear byproduct of the team's focus on building their team defense during training camp. The team went into the season with a plan toward developing the offense throughout the season and that started with running base sets for GPA and growing from there. A simple chronological study of game film from season’s beginning will attest to the relative simplicity of the overall offensive attack.
Once opponents had gotten a couple of month’s worth of film on the Celtics however, the team's offense begun to sputter. Rajon Rondo's injury while out west in Utah furthered this decline as the team's lack of a competent back-up PG was exposed. After the team returned from its victory against the Lakers there was a prolonged offensive drought. The team saw sizable declines across the board in its offensive potency over the next few weeks.
Up until that point in the season the team was getting inconsistent contributions from all but GPA. James Posey and Eddie House were the next closest to being consistent, but they were both a hit-or-miss proposition after a fast start. Perkins and Rondo were off-and-on during this time and no one else from the bench was bringing it every night. The team was overly-reliant on its 3 stars and it was beginning to take its toll.
...then KG went down...
In his absence the team was forced to re-configure its attack around Pierce and Allen with the slack for KG's absence being picked up by the remaining Celtics players. With KG sidelined there was an offensive and defensive void to be filled and a number of Celtics have answered the call.
Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Glen Davis have all come to the forefront to fill the "Big Tickets" big shoes. Rondo especially has upped his production and blossomed into a surrogate "third star" to keep the pressure on the opposition with his scoring and playmaking. Rondo has also increased his defensive consistency-specifically on pick-and-roll situations.
Rondo's confidence has grown and with it has come a sense that he may have turned a permanent corner in his young career. He is attacking the basket with regularity and looking for offense when the team's overall offense stagnates.
His energy has been infectious for players such as Tony Allen, who has begun to round into pre-ACL form over the past two weeks. Powe has benefited as well. The chemistry between Powe and Rondo has increased substantially on a game by game basis which has helped to invigorate the formerly slumping offense and re-constituted the team's rebounding grit.
One of the more overlooked elements of Rondo's improvement has been the effect it has had on Ray Allen's game these past few weeks. Allen had been handling a heavier load of the pick-and-roll game for the Celtics offense prior to KG's departure and hadn't quite found a balance point in the team offense.
As Rondo has increased his ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities, Allen has been free to roam the court and do what he does best-move without the ball and take advantage of his lethal mid-range game. This increase in movement has allowed Ray to penetrate to the basket with greater ease and added a new dimension to his attack, which in turn has improved his effectiveness in the pick-and-roll game.
When KG returns to the court he will find a team that has a much stronger on-court identity than the one he last saw. The star power of GPA was the catalyst for the Celtics historic start to the season. But as much as these 3 heroes have meant to the resurrection of this franchise, it may be the temporary removal of the team's brightest star that has allowed the rest of the supporting cast to define themselves.
Rajon Rondo has taken his first turn in the spotlight and is a better player for it. Leon Powe has followed suit as well. With Allen/Allen building up steam and Glen Davis looking capable of big-game contributions, the 2nd half Celtics may just be a much better TEAM, 1-13....Ubuntu indeed...