By A. Sherrod Blakely
LOS ANGELES The Boston Celtics have had their share of great playmakers.
But it's safe to say they've never quite had a guy running the show like Rajon Rondo.
The 6-foot-1 guard has a knack for combining a high level of basketball flair with intense focus.
"Rondo is by far the smartest player I've been around," said Celtics guard Nate Robinson.
That tandem of skills have allowed him to rise to the top of the NBA leader's list in assists (12.6) per game this season.
Those qualities, sprinkled with the kind of speed that makes every time he steps on the floor a track meet, have him among the handful of players in the conversation about who is the league's top point guard.
"When he plays with speed, he has power," said coach Doc Rivers.
Speed is indeed a big part of his success.
It's a fitting trait for him to have when you consider how quickly he's racing up the charts among all-time assists leaders for the Celtics.
Rondo, who now has 2,596 career assists, recently cracked the Celtics' all-time top 10 in this category.
Making Rondo's rise even more remarkable is that he's done it in such a short period of time.
Rondo, who will be 25 next month, is about halfway through his fifth NBA season.
When you look at the nine players currently ahead of him on the C's all-time assists leaders list, all but two (Dennis Johnson and K.C. Jones) spent at least 10 seasons in the Green and White.
Johnson and Jones spent seven and nine seasons with the Celtics, respectively.
While he doesn't quite have their level of experience, Rondo more than makes up for that with the kind of selfless game that makes him the kind of teammate this group of Celtics love to play with.
"It's beautiful watching him grow, and how hard he wants it and how hard he goes," said forward Kevin Garnett. "Sometimes he'll see something that you don't see, and he'll make you see it. I guess it's the point guard vision. He has a very high I.Q., when it comes to basketball. He understands angles. That's what makes him who he is. That's what makes him unique. He plays both ends, doesn't take nights off. You roll with a guy like that. We respect him even more just because we've seen the process. It's good."