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."

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

BOSTON -- While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed. 

“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke. 

Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City. 

Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week. 

“I can’t wait,” he said. 

Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft. 

Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics. 

“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”

And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA. 

“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder . . . we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”

Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown. 

“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps. 

Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”

While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other. 

“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:

“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”

One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude. 

Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs. 

“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”

And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce. 

“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”

Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce. 

Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task. 

But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren. 

Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.

“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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0:41 - Tom Curran, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul and how that trade can actually have an affect on the Celtics plans.

5:06 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to talk about if the Celtics are the front runners for Paul George, what would be too much to give up to the Pacers, and why it’s important to sign Hayward before trading for George.

11:21 - Evan Drellich joins from Fenway Park to discuss Rick Porcello getting his 10th loss of the season and if the struggling offense might be a season-long problem. 

14:58 - Tom Curran and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Nate Burleson saying that Julian Edelman is the most under-appreciated receiver in the last 10 years.