The Truth on Rondo

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The Truth on Rondo

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

With all the back and forth this week on Rajon Rondo his slump, health and heart heres one thing we know for sure:

The Celtics cant win without him.

I know it. You know it. And thankfully, the team knows it.

For all the time, energy and cash invested into this season, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers realize that without Rondo, it was all for naught. Hes the game changer. Hes the guy who needs to be at his best for the Celtics to be at their best.

In each of the last three seasons, Rondos gotten worse as the playoffs have gone on. Last year, he hobbled through the Finals. That cant happen again. He needs to be ready for the long haul, and the Celtics would be crazy to jeopardize that. Preparing Rondos mind and body for two months of playoff basketball should not only be on their radar, but stuck in the tractor beam.

Way back in December, while Rondo was dealing with a few nagging injuries, Doc was asked about the option of maybe giving his point guard a little strategic rest down the stretch. "That may come at some point," Doc said. "I don't think it's a bad suggestion. It has been suggested already, I can tell you that."

They were thinking about it in December, and theyre obviously still thinking about it now. If Rondo really needs to sit, the Celtics will sit him. Theyll do whatever it takes to get him ready, and baring something tragic, Rajon Rondo will be there for the playoffs.

And thats one reason not to be particularly worried about this awkward stage of Rondos season

If its a matter of health, you can trust that the Celtics will do the right thing.

Another reason: You can trust in Rondo.

With all that hes accomplished, especially these last two seasons, its almost insulting, to wonder whether or not the Rondo weve seen these last 11 games (39 percent from the field, 7.5 points and at least three questionable desirefocus mistakes a night) will eventually right the ship.

Would you write off Modern Family after a few bad episodes? Would you unfollow @thesulk after a few not-so-funny tweets? No way. Likewise, when Rondo goes through a rough patch you dont abandon ship. Especially since March has been the month when his numbers traditionally take a dip. Of the five complete months on the NBA calendar, its March where Rondo has his worst field goal percentage (.443), lowest assist (7.0) and second lowest point (10.0) average of his career. March has historically been a speed bump, and if there was ever a season where Rondo might need to pump the breaks for a second, hes living it.

Its been a physically taxing year. Hes dealt with a serious ankle injury, a nagging hamstring, and plantar fasciitis and those are the ones we know about. Hes missed 11 games but Rondo otherwise hes like EA Sports if hes in the game, hes in the game. His 37.4 minutes a night are the most of his career and good for 15th in the league.

On top of that, this is Rondos first season playing with that bulls eye on his back. This is the first time in his career when playing like an All-Star is the expectation, not some nice little luxury. Hes gone from hunter to the hunted, and whether hes up against the worst PG in the league or the best, from Chris Quinn to Chris Paul, the other guy always wants to beat Rajon Rondo, and thats an adjustment.

Hmm, what else?

Oh, they traded Rondos best friend. Thats a sensitive and spotty subject, mostly because Rondo hasnt thoroughly addressed it. Theres no way to determine how much ifany affect that deals had on his on-court performance . . . but it had to affect him a little. Whether or not it hurt his game isnt worth speculating over, but it had to be a little overwhelming, in some life capacity. Perk was his best friend of four years. He had to feel that. As Doc says, Hes only human.

But again, you have to trust that regardless of any potential feelings, Rondo will fight through, because as much as hes a human hes also a deadly competitor. No matter what happens, once theyre in the playoffs nothing else will exist. You can count on that.

And now Ive given you three reasons why there's essentially no point in wasted time worrying about Rajon Rondo, his post-deadline slump and his playoff potential.

1. If its health-related, theyll take care of it.

2. If its a talent issue, then . . . its just not a talent issue. Talent isnt in question anymore.

3. If its mental, then no big deal. Hell get over it, or is already. Hes too much of a competitor.

So heres the question: Why am I still wasting time? Why throw up 800 words and counting on an issue that doesnt deserve it?

Because, like it or not, when the two most important voices in the Celtics locker room give drastically different opinions on the health of their most important player, you just have to. You need to take a closer look.

As you probably heard, after Wednesday nights win, Kevin Garnett touched on Rondos struggles. Heres the quote:

Rondo's playing hurt," said Garnett. "He's giving us everything he has and he's grinding. I think the nights where he's playing countless minutes for us, and he's not playing washed up guys.

All these guys and they're coming at him. He knows that, so he's just a little focused in. But everybody's banged up at this point and Rondo is no different from that.

First of all, KGs no dummy. He knows how the media works. He knows that if he tells a group of Boston reporters that Rondo is hurting it will set off a time bomb that explodes all over the 24-hour news cycle.

Which it did.

Which led to Doc Rivers being asked about it during his weekly radio spot on WEEI.

Which led Doc to disagree with KG entirely:

"No, he's fine, nothing's wrong," Rivers. "He hasn't been playing well . . . You go through that. It just happens during the season.

"He's going to work himself out of it, but you've just got to do it. I always tell him, 'No one's going to feel sorry for any of us.' It's just something you go through and you have to work yourself through it."

Doc was asked if KG, specifically, was wrong to say Rondo was hurting, and replied:

Yeah, he is.

Doc knows how it works, too. He knew what he was doing. He understands how unfair it would be to tell the city that a struggling player wasnt injured when he really was. That doesnt seem to vibe with how Doc usually handles things.

Now KGs saying Rondos hurt; Docs saying hes not. They cant both be right. So, whos wrong? And why? Whats the motivation?

Who knows, but dont be surprised to see the story play out over these next few games. The time bomb went off, and now theyll have to pick up the pieces.

At the end of the day, theres still doesnt seem like a need to worry about playoff Rondo. Everyones on the same page here, everyone knows: No Rondo, No ring.

But just because theres no need to worry doesnt mean that theres no need for the truth, and right now thats whats missing.

A definite answer. Clarity. Maybe even something from the man himself?

Whatever. At this point it would just be nice to get it out of the way, and get Rajon Rondo squared away for April 16.

Its the NBA Playoffs, and as we all know, the Celtics cant win without him.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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From now until training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the NBA and the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the NBA MVP?

BOSTON – It’ll be months before we have a feel for who the best players in the NBA will be this season.
 
But it’s never too soon to start looking at potential NBA candidates, is it?

This year’s MVP race will have plenty of contenders of course, some being familiar faces while there’s likely to be at least one or two who emerge as the season progresses.
 
Here’s a look at five players who should emerge as league MVP candidates this season:
 

5. Damian Lillard, Portland
 
Only 26 years old, the former rookie of the year award winner has been selected to a pair of All-Star games. But that’s not what will make him an MVP candidate this season. He plays for the Blazers, a team whose rebuild following LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure to San Antonio, has taken off quicker than expected.
 
Expectations were extremely low for a Portland team that shocked the NBA world and finished with the fifth-best record in the West and advanced to the second round last season.
 
Terry Stotts emerged as one of the league’s better coaches and guard C.J. McCollum garnered the league’s Most Improved Player award.
 
But the engine that makes the Blazers go is Lillard.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard’s ability to score from the perimeter, off the dribble and all points on the floor, makes him an extremely difficult cover.
 
And while the addition of ex-Celtic Evan Turner will help take some of the playmaking pressure off Lillard, this is still his team and will go only as far as he can lead them.
 

4. LeBron James, Cleveland
 
As we saw in Cleveland’s run towards the franchise’s first NBA title last season, James can become the most dominant player at both ends of the floor when the game matters most. And while those qualities will certainly make him one of the best in the game, James isn’t likely to be as dominant as we’ve seen in past years.
 
And the reason can be summed up in two words: Kyrie Irving.
 
Irving really had a coming out of sorts in the NBA Finals when he outplayed two-time league MVP Stephen Curry which was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s championship aspirations coming to fruition.
 
And let’s face it.
 
James can win this award every year and those who vote for him would have plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
 
But this season, James will likely be sharing more of the limelight than ever with Irving who may be called upon to pick up more of the offensive slack depending on how things play out with free agent J.R. Smith.
 

3. Stephen Curry, Golden State
 
As the reigning league MVP each of the past two seasons, it will be difficult for Curry to do enough to garner a 3-peat.
 
When he won his first MVP award, Golden State was poised to win its first NBA title in 40 years. And last season’s MVP hardware came at the tail-end of an unprecedented season in which Golden State became the gold standard for regular season success with 73 wins.

But this regular season will be one in which Curry’s numbers are likely to take a dip with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

Still, Curry will continue to be the player most of the league’s shooting guards are measured against and far more often than not, fall short in their efforts to be as good as Curry.
 
The addition of Durant will certainly shift some of the immense on-the-floor attention Curry usually gets, which should make for an easier time for Curry.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Just like opponents will be focusing more attention towards Durant, the same holds true for the media and fans which means Curry may in fact become a more efficient player this year with fewer folks actually recognizing it.
 

2. Paul George, Indiana
 
With a year back in the game following a horrific knee injury, Paul George is poised to re-enter the league MVP race with a vengeance.
 
The 6-9 George comes into this season with a number of factors working out in his favor to at least give his candidacy a legitimate shot of getting started.
 
For starters, he’s as healthy as he has been in years. In the past few years, that has been one of the biggest factors that has kept him from being in the league MVP conversation. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has assembled a talented group whose collective strengths work well with what George brings to the game.
 
And speaking of the Pacers, those additions along with George’s ability should lift Indiana into being among the top five or six teams in the East. The closer to the top they finish, the better George’s chances become.
 

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

Even though Durant has joined a Golden State team that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons, he will come in and immediately become the alpha male of this team.

Durant probably won't wind up winning a fifth scoring title, but he will still be among the leagues’ top scorers and lead the Warriors offensively.
 
And while the success of Golden State will hinge heavily on the contributions of many, their regular season success will be credited in large part to the addition of Durant which can only enhance his chances of winning league MVP for a second time in his career.
 
He will be the first to tell you that his focus going into this season has absolutely nothing to do with being the NBA’s MVP.
 
And I believe him.
 
Durant signed with Golden State to win a championship; it’s that simple.
 
And in doing so, he bypassed the comfort of staying with Oklahoma City or penning a new narrative in his basketball journey by joining a team trending towards a championship but not quite there yet.
 
But for him to win a championship, it would mean continuing to be a dominant force while meshing his skills with an even more talented group of teammates.
 
For Durant to put up numbers similar to those he has in the past AND win more games towards a title, will be more than enough to assert his place among the game’s top players.
 
It’s what you would expect from the MVP.