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."

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.