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

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”