Ball Don't Lie (a Yahoo basketball blog, if you need this explained to you, please bookmark them now) does a great job with their previews. They have 3 main writers and all three give their take on each team. Obviously Rajon Rondo is a central figure and it was interesting to read each author's take on him.
Kelly Dwyer takes a critical eye toward Rajon's game last year.
The pressure is on Rondo, though. He's fearless, and a joy to watch; but too often last year he resorted to the sort of offensive play that reminded you more of a Mark Jackson or even an All-Star-leveled Brevin Knight, as opposed to the all-world point man he likes to fancy himself as. The league-leading assists are fantastic, but how can the NBA's best point guard man the helm of a team that finished 27th out of 30 teams in points per possession? Does he have the sort of offensive-minded teammates that a Chris Paul or Steve Nash get to boast? No, but 12 points per game and sub-60 percent shooting from the line just isn't going to cut it for a team that badly, badly needs buckets.
Meanwhile Dan Devine sees evidence of potentially wonderful things to come.
They were there because Rondo took over the team, showed that he could dominate games by scoring as well as by passing and rebounding, and proved that whether or not he's the quote-unquote "best point guard in the game," he is inarguably one of its greatest and most difficult-to-solve riddles. He's back, now the clear and defined leader of the team, looking for all the world like an MVP candidate ready to emerge as a nightly marvel in all facets of the game. This time around, though, the Celtics look deeper and more versatile.
Finally, Eric Freeman sees Rondo as a key to the Celtics to changing their identity.
But turning Rondo into a central figure also changes the Celtics for the better, and not just because he's coming into his own as a star. With the Big Three, the Celtics were the sort of team that others fought to supplant, even when their record indicated they were not the best team in the East. Their value was part and parcel of the NBA establishment, an example for upstarts to measure themselves against. And while this incarnation of the team is still relatively old, all things considered, Rondo's ascendancy changes their identity into that of the dangerous challenger. They are still identifiably good, but they're less a milestone on the path to a conference title than a predator that might attack with little warning.
I'd say they are all right in their own ways. Rondo did man an offense that struggled offensively last year. He does have a revamped lineup to work with and he will be the central focal point of the team's new post-Ray identity.
Every year it seems like Rondo adds something to his skill set and leadership may be the main thing he's added this summer. Or at least added to what he already had but didn't show to the world (see Jackie MacMullen's article).
And look at that, we got through an entire Rondo preview without talking about his jumpshooting! (oops - I guess I brought it up)