All on Rondo


All on Rondo

I mentioned this briefly at the end of one of yesterday's posts, but with Game 6 fast approaching and injury-talk already boring, I figured I'd re-iterate the message one more time.

It's all about Rajon Rondo.

For however long we want to speculate about Paul Pierce's knee, Ray Allen's ankle, Avery Bradley's shoulder and Al Horford's pectoral. No matter what you think about who should guard Joe Johnson, who should play back-up center or who would win a race between Erick Dampier and Tommy Heinsohn. Regardless of anything

If Rondo shows up tonight and I mean really shows up nothing else will matter.

That may be a slight overstatement, but not by much.

By "show up," I don't mean "score points." This isn't a call for Rondo to put the team on his back like Pierce in Game 2, and make a push for 30 or even 20 points. Of course, if it happens, it happens, but more important than scoring points, Rondo just needs to create points. That can come by way of baskets, assists and just as well through rebounds. Rondo's never better than when he's crashing the boards and starting fast breaks by himself; when he eliminates the need for an outlet pass, and has the defense on their heels from the moment they miss a shot.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm spending so much time describing this ideal Rondo game, because we all know exactly what it looks like. We've seen it before most recently in Game 3, which was (not coincidentally) the only game the Celtics have resembled anything close to a championship team. The only question is when we'll see it again.

And if the answer's "tonight," here are a few things we won't have to worry about: Pierce's knee. Allen's ankle. Bradley's shoulder. Horford's pec. What do you do with Joe? Hollins or Stiemsma? Heinsohn or Dampier? All we'll care about is this: Chicago or Philly?

But if Super Rondo isn't ready when the ball goes up, then all those questions (and more) come into play for the C's. And the likelihood of heading back down to Atlanta increases by the minute.

I said it yesterday. I said 400 words ago. And I'll say it again now.

It's all about Rondo.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.