Blakely: Is Rondo as Celtics future leader a good thing?


Blakely: Is Rondo as Celtics future leader a good thing?

ATLANTA There's little doubt that Rajon Rondo is in many ways being groomed to be the Boston Celtics' leader of the future.

But it's times like this that may you wonder is that a good thing?

Rondo lost his composure in the closing seconds on Sunday, and the Celtics wound up losing the game, 83-74, as the Atlanta Hawks take a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.

Making matters worse, his chest-bumping of official Marc Davis, as expected, resulted in a one-game suspension without pay, that will be enforcedultimately resulting him getting ejected, factoring into the Celtics' 83-74 loss, and to make matters even worse, he's now suspended for Game 2 on Tuesday.

Now the Celtics have been a team handling adversity since before the season started. And this, for many of them, is par for the course.

But here's the problem.

It's one thing to handle adversity when it lands in your lap. Totally different matter when you bring it upon yourself and your teammates which is exactly what Rondo has done.

If the Celtics lose this series, you can bet they won't blame Father Time, they won't blame Ray Allen's gimpy ankle, they could care less if Josh Smith continued playing like an All-Star.

It'll be Rondo's fault.

Fair or not, that's part of the deal that comes with being the future face of the franchise. That's part of the deal when you play at a ridiculously high level in games with a national TV audience.

"We've been prepared to play without him," C's Paul Pierce said before the announcement that he would be out. "We've been prepared to play without a number of guys. That's no excuse. It's game two. It's a game that we gotta have."

And if this season is any barometer for what's to come, the Celtics will probably win Game 2 and tilt home court advantage in their favor.

But even if they do that and the C's go on to the next round of the playoffs, Rondo's maturation once again will be an issue moving forward.

The talent that he has is off the charts. You can search high and wide, and you won't find another player in the NBA with his court vision or knack for getting the ball to guys in their sweet spots.

And while he's just 26 years old, these emotional outbursts - and their timing - has to give Danny Ainge and the Celtics' brass reason to pause.

Think back to February when the Celtics were at Detroit and Rondo, upset at an official for what he believed was a non-call - sounds familiar? - then tossed the ball to the official with shall we say, a little more force than needed.

He was ejected from that game and then hit with a two-game suspension.

Oh, the two games he missed?

They were only road games at Dallas - the reigning NBA champion - and Oklahoma City who at the time, had the best record in the Western Conference.

Yes, his timing then - and now - could not have been much worse, all things considered.

But here's the challenge for Boston.

The very thing that got him suspended - strong, passionate emotions - is the very thing he brings to the floor that the Celtics desperately need.

"Rondo's an emotional player," Rivers said. "You know that old saying,'I'd rather kindle a fire than start one?' I like his fire and sometimes it burns you. You know what I mean? But I like the fire that he has. He's a fighter for his team. You don't want him to go that far, obviously. But it's just who he is. It's also part of what makes him great. It's that fine line that you have to walk, and every once in a while he crosses it."

He certainly did on Sunday.

And chances are pretty good he'll cross it again at some point in the near future.

The Celtics can brush it aside to some degree now because they have leaders already in place to handle these kind of situations.

But Paul Pierce isn't going to be around forever. Ditto for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

At some point, there will not be a sharing of power at the top of the leadership board with the Celtics.

This will be Rondo's team.

And while the fire and passion he plays with is certainly a big part of both his success and that of the Celtics, these are the times when we're reminded that his leadership skills are very much a work in progress.

But make no mistake about it.

He will be a leader, the undisputed leader of this team very soon.

But you have to wonder . . . is that a good thing?

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back


Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.