Sometimes veteran players take preseason lightly. They show up and go through the motions, mostly to avoid any unnecessary injuries. So far, that hasn't been the case with the Celtics this year. Both the starters and the bench have shown up to play each and every night. Three games into the schedule the second unit has arguably garnered more attention than the starters. Regardless of where the production is coming from, what matters so far is that every player who will seemingly play a significant role this season has shown us something. Except for Rajon Rondo.
I'm not trying to bash Rondo, nor am I saying I don't have faith in him. I think he's one of the best point guards in the league. I'm merely surprised as to why he hasn't asserted himself more this preseason. Do I think he eventually will? Of course I do. I just find it odd that every other player on the roster seems to be going out of their way to show us all something, whether it be a new weapon in the arsenal or that they're finally healthy and Rondo appears to just be out there.Kevin Garnett has so far shown no lingering side effects from right knee surgery this summer. His jump shot looks smooth, he's been very aggressive on the boards and he's even gotten in the face of some of his opponents. He elected to use the preseason to test out the knee, work on his endurance and get reacquainted with the speed of the game.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are both in tremendous shape and Pierce proved that by throwing down a very rare reverse dunk on Friday against the Knicks and by pouring in 25 points against the Nets on Sunday. Allen dropped a preseason high 13 points against the Knicks on Friday and has acknowledged that his feet feel better than ever.
Kendrick Perkins slimmed down by 15 pounds and appears to have a legitimate short range jump shot in his offensive arsenal now.
Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine have formed quite a cohesive and effective second unit and have played a major part in vanquishing opponents all on their own.
Lester Hudson has turned some heads, as he appears comfortable handling the ball and has shown a lot of heart and hustle, signifying that he truly wants to make this team. Even Mike Sweetney has made Celtics fans at least consider the notion that he stands a chance at making the final cut.
But what about Rajon Rondo? After teammates and personnel proclaimed he had the best training camp out of everyone and after Rondo himself stated that he was one of the smartest point guards in the league in an interview with Peter Stringer, the expectations were mounting. Couple that with the reports that Rondo spent time working on his jump shot with Mark Price this summer and that he added 11 pounds of muscle, and we expected to see tremendous strides in Rondo's game, even early on.
I'm well aware we're not even halfway through preseason, but it's safe to say we expected to see something out of Rondo by now. And no, him skying for a dunk and a block against the Nets does not count. We're not looking for Rondo to grace SportsCenter every night. We're looking for Rondo to effectively lead this team.
His stats thus far:
21.3 minutes, 7-20 shooting (35%), 7-10 FTs, 7.0 points, 1.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 3.33 turnovers and 3.0 personal fouls.
So far the jump shot doesn't appear to be that much improved and he still seems to pass up on it at times. If anything, one might assume preseason would be the perfect time for Rondo to hoist the jumpers up there, at least to test out any new methods in real game scenarios.
His decision making appears sketchy as well. He seems to be getting too fancy on fast breaks at times and also seems to want to force the ball inside, even when he doesn't have an ideal angle or passing lane. His passes seem errant and he doesn't appear very vocal, despite acknowledging on media day that he's ready to speak up more.
The turnovers are slightly disconcerting as well. The 3.33 number is significantly higher than his 2.6 average from last season and his assist to turnover ratio has plummeted from 3.15 to 0.9. Rondo's always been one to value the ball and typically seems a step ahead of most of his defenders, but we just haven't seen it this preseason. Even play-by-play man Mike Gorman announced after the Nets' telecast that he was slightly concerned with Rondo's game.
After all of the aforementioned reports, I expected bigger and better things so far. Maybe he's suffering from preseason syndrome. Maybe he'll explode October 27th against Cleveland. Whatever the case may be, he doesn't appear to be meeting raised expectations. Hopefully that will change sooner rather than later.