Rondo back on the court for Kentucky

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Rondo back on the court for Kentucky

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
This week Rajon Rondo returned to Kentucky to put on a show in front of his hometown and college crowds. The Louisville native and former University of Kentucky player participated in the highly anticipated UK Pros - Dominican Republic basketball games organized by Wildcats head coach John Calipari.

Rondo was joined by fellow NBA players John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Keith Bogans, and Nazr Mohammed, among others on the Kentucky squad. The Dominican Republic team included Al Horford, Francisco Garcia, and Edgar Sosa.
A look back at Rondos week . . .

Getting Hyped on Twitter

With seats in high demand, Rondo held a contest to win a pair of tickets to the first game: Send me your best photo wearing your Kentucky blue to win the 2 UK tix to mondays game. Ill announce the winner tmrrw Noon ET Wildcats.

The winner impressed him with a room full of Wildcats gear and memorabilia and a splash of Celtics attire. (The fan later tweeted, @RajonRondo Thanks Rajon for the tickets! Best pg in the league! Wildcats BBN.)

Rondo later tweeted several messages expressing excitement, and even asked fans for their opinion on which sneakers to wear:

Game Day

"Which Shoe should I play in tonight? Uniform color doesn't matter http:yfrog.comh2nfagnj"

Thanks for the support tonight. Had a lot of Fun. Rematch tomorrow

Can't wait to do it again tonight taps.lapvOnv9"
Game Day(s)

In Monday's game in Lexington, a 106-88 victory by the Dominican Republic, Rondo scored three points (1-5 FG, 0-1 3PG, 1-2 FT), dished seven assists, and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes. He led the team in assists (Wall and Bogans had two apiece) while finishing second in boards behind only Cousins (14).

The Dominican Republic earned another victory, 91-86, on Tuesday in Louisville. Rondo scored 14 points (7-18 FG, 0-4 3PG, 0-2 FT), pulled down five rebounds, and had four of Kentucky's six assists in 35 minutes.

Addressing the Media

Following Tuesday's game, Rondo sat down with Mohammed to address the media. And the interview wasn't without a classic Rondo one-liner either. After Mohammed offered a lengthy response to a question about the NBA lockout, Rondo concisely replied, "Correct. A few excerpts from his postgame interview:

On the NBA lockout:

"Right now we're just preparing as if it is a regular season. We've been working out together a little bit, just trying to stay ready, stay in shape, and get better each year. So it hasn't officially started as far as checks coming in stop coming in, but it's a dead period right now."

"Really just go with the flow, really. There's nothing we can do really right now, it's just a matter of waiting til both sides come to an agreement. It's just what it is right now."

On fan support at the games:

"I haven't even played here before but I had a good time. I had a great reception. Obviously it's a lot of Kentucky fans here, so I just tried to come out and give the guys a show and play hard."

"They come out back-to-back nights and support us. Great ovations, great fan participation, so we can't thank the fans enough and we tried to come out there and put on a show for them."

On camaraderie among Kentucky alumni:

"It's just a matter of respect. We all went to the same university and we're all in the league right now. We just have a lot of respect for each other. We all know what we've been through and the journey we took to get to where we are, and that's just what it's about."

Kentucky Camaraderie Continues

The camaraderie mentioned by Rondo was expressed by many of the players on Twitter before, during, and after the games, including:

Wall re-tweeted Lexington-nativeWashington Wizards rookie Shelvin Mack: Headed to Rupp later to support my teammate @jimmywa11 and big homie @RajonRondo......
Mohammed tweeted: We have a lot of great talent from UK in the NBA. It was fun to play with @jimmywa11 @boogiecousins @EBled24 @RajonRondo Jodie, Tay & Keith

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.