OFFSEASON

Celtics Question of the Day: Rondo good for 11-plus assists again?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Rondo good for 11-plus assists again?

It's a given that Rajon Rondo will have the ball in his hands most of the time for the Boston Celtics, with the its departure from his mitts likely resulting in an assist.

That's how it is when you're an elite NBA point guard who has finished in the top four in assists each of the last three seasons, something only Steve Nash and Chris Paul can stake a similar claim to during that time.

But what has made Rondo such a dynamic talent is that regardless of how much his game has grown, he fully embraces the notion that there's still room to improve.

Even after averaging a league-best 11.7 assists per game last season, there's no question Rondo believes he can do better than that.

Do you?

As good as Rondo is, he'll be hard-pressed to have an even better season in terms of assists.

For starters, only three players (Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and John Stockton) in NBA history have averaged 11 or more assists in three or more consecutive seasons.

Bob Cousy, the greatest Celtic point guard of them all, never averaged more than 9.5 assists in any given season.

And like Cousy, Rondo has spent a considerable portion of his career with future Hall of Famers (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen who is now with the Miami Heat) which to some degree, tends to overshadow what was a record-setting season.

He was named to the all-NBA third team, the first Celtic since Paul Pierce who was picked as a member of the second-team in 2009. During the C's championship season in 2008, both Kevin Garnett (first team) and Pierce (third) were all-NBA picks.

Not only was Rondo's 11.7 assists per game the highest assist average ever for a Celtic, but only five players (Utah's John Stockton, Detroit's Isiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson, Detroit's Kevin Porter and Phoenix's Kevin Johnson) since the league began tracking assists has ever led the league with a higher assists per game average than Rondo.

The last time any NBA player averaged as many assists as Rondo did last season, it was 1995 with Nintendo Game Boy in high demand and Stockton was rocking the (way too short) short-shorts, on his way to an NBA-best 12.3 assists per game.

But in Rondo's effort to continue expanding his game, he has shown he can occasionally post players up, play some off the ball and occasionally knock down a mid-range jumper which has been a major weakness of his game for years.

If he's looking to do more off-the-ball action, it'll certainly make him and the Celtics a much more dangerous team.

But expanding his game will come at a cost - which for Rondo would likely mean more assists.

"I'm a pass-first point guard," Rondo said earlier. "It's not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy, and get a win."

And continue to make his case for being the NBA's top point guard.

"The world knows what I can do," he said. "Like I said, the world knows what I can do; go out there and continue to do what I do best and that's be the best point guard in the NBA."

OFFSEASON

Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

Time has arrived for Celtics to make their case to free agents

BOSTON – The bewitching hour is nearly upon us when the Celtics can get down to the business of bolstering a roster that has shown tangible growth (read: more wins, baby!) every year under Brad Stevens.
 
The free agency period begins at the stroke of midnight tonight - the first shot Danny Ainge and company will get to make a case to free agents Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Dwight Howard.
 
Boston is one of six teams that Durant will meet with, so a decision by Durant isn’t expected immediately.
 
That may not be the case for Horford and Howard, who are among the most coveted free agents available and will likely get multi-year, near-max offers quickly.
 
In the past, Boston has added players that were targeted via free agency because they fit a very clear and well-defined role.
 
Boston wanted to add a rim-protector last summer, so they went out and signed Amir Johnson.
 
It certainly didn’t bring about the kind of “fireworks” Celtics fans were hoping for, but Johnson did prove to be a solid addition in helping Boston win 48 regular season games – the most under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
 
This summer is different.
 
The Celtics have to do more than just add a nice rotation player to the mix.
 
They need a stud; pure and simple.
 
They need to add a player who immediately comes in as a starter who can help jump-start Boston’s quest to become one of the game’s elite teams again.
 
Adding such a player is easier said than done, obviously.
 
And making it even more difficult now is, unlike past off-seasons when only a handful of teams came into free agency with fat pockets like Boston (they can potentially add two max-salary players), the league’s new TV deal kicks in this summer and has created a much larger field of financial fat cats.
 
With money not being as big a difference-maker now, decisions by players will likely come down to opportunity to play and comfort level with an organization.
 
And that is a good thing for the Celtics.
 
Getting  coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Ainge signed to long-term extensions was about more than just continuity within the organization.
 
It also sent a strong message to potential free agents that the guys you are negotiating with now, aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
 
And with Stevens at the helm, a number of players have come through Boston and left better for the experience, basketball-wise and financially.
 
Evan Turner came to Boston two years ago as a player many dubbed as a bust. He leaves as one of the game’s most versatile perimeter players who will land a salary that will more than triple the $3.4 million he made last season.
 
It is that quality that may convince Dwight Howard to sign with Boston. You will be hard-pressed to find a player as heavily criticized as Howard (much of which he has brought upon himself) who can still play at a fairly high level.
 
Last season was one of his worst in the NBA and he still averaged a double-double of 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game along with 1.6 blocked shots.
 
Getting him back to being one of the league’s elite centers would be the greatest reclamation success story ever for Stevens and would provide Boston with an impact free agent, a sight seldom (if ever) seen donning a Celtics jersey.

OFFSEASON

Isaiah Thomas on Dwight Howard: "Who wouldn't want a guy like that on your team"

Isaiah Thomas on Dwight Howard: "Who wouldn't want a guy like that on your team"

Isaiah Thomas joins Johnston & Flynn (in for Toucher & Rich) to discuss his recruitment of Kevin Durant and other NBA players increasing interest level in coming to Boston to play for the Celtics.