Blakely: This is Rondo's team now

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Blakely: This is Rondo's team now

BOSTON For years, the talk around town has been that sooner or later, this Boston Celtics team would be Rajon Rondo's team.

That time appears to be now.

Rondo continues to play at a level that none of his teammates - not Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen - are at currently.

"This is his team right now," said coach Doc Rivers.

While Allen has been solid for the C's all season, Rondo has been far and away their best player.

"Rajon is amazing, period," said Kevin Garnett. "You talk about big things are coming; big things are here. Rajon is keeping us alive every night. We just have to make sure we follow his lead, and follow his effort, and we're going to turn this thing around."

Said Rondo: "I just try to attack, be aggressive, get us easy baskets, easy looks; if it's for myself or it's for my teammates. Right now, our offense is behind our defense. Getting easy looks is going to help."

To hear Rivers and the Celtics talk so glowingly about Rondo speaks volumes about how quickly things can change in the NBA.

Just a few weeks ago, the C's were diligently working on a trade that would have sent Rondo to New Orleans for Chris Paul.

Not only did the Hornets not like the deal, but Paul wasn't thrilled about the prospect of playing for the C's in part because of their steadily diminishing window of opportunity to be among the NBA's elite.

Boston's efforts at landing David West came up short as well, with West signing a two-year, 20 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.

So that leaves Rondo and the rest of the aging Celtics to see if they can do the improbable, which would be to somehow catapult themselves back into the conversation as an NBA title contender.

Rondo, who has showed no signs of ill will towards the franchise that just a few weeks ago was ready to ship him out of town, seems more than up for the challenge of putting the C's on his back.

But he can't do it alone.

It's very likely that at some point this season, Paul Pierce will get on track offensively, and Ray Allen will continue nailing dagger 3-pointers in the fourth and Garnett will become a defensive stalwart who can also hurt teams with his elbow-jumper.

But as they return to form, the C's will have to figure out how to continue getting major production from Rondo while at the same time, getting their core players to make major contributions as well.

Rivers has no idea how all this is going to play out. But what he does know is that Rondo is playing well; better than any other Celtic player.

And when the rest of the Big Three get on track, Rondo should still be their best player.

"Rondo's just playing terrific," Rivers said. "And we've got to allow him to be terrific. We shouldn't get in his way."

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.