Rondo being patient, learning on the fly

Rondo being patient, learning on the fly
January 20, 2014, 12:00 am
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Rajon Rondo is clearly disappointed that his first two games since returning from a torn right ACL injury both ended with last-second losses.

But through that disappointment, the Celtics Captain remains optimistic that the team's fortunes will turn around soon.

"I love the fight the guys have," Rondo said after Boston's 93-91 loss at Orlando on Sunday. "We're not coming up with the plays we need down the stretch."

When you look at the final score, it would appear that the Celtics simply need one or two more baskets, or a key defensive stop or two.

But there are little things besides scoring and defense that have been even more problematic.

In Sunday's loss, Boston failed to secure a Jameer Nelson miss with 11.9 seconds to play and the score tied at 91. Had they grabbed that, they would have been in a position to either win the game or send it to overtime.

Instead, the Celtics wound up committing a loose ball foul against Tobias Harris who went to the free throw line and made the game-winning free throws with 10.1 seconds to play.

Boston's inability to do a better job of closing out on the Lakers' shooters down the stretch in their loss on Friday was huge, evident by Los Angeles making seven of their nine 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter and escaping with a 107-104 win.

Closing out games has been an issue for Boston throughout most of this season. It became even more complicated to some degree with the return of Rondo in a limited capacity.

You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes the Celtics are a better team without Rondo.

But with a 20-minute cap on his playing time set (he went over by 80 seconds on Sunday) coupled with all the new faces he is now playing with, developing a rhythm remains a work in progress.

"It's going to take a little bit of time," Rondo acknowledged. "But we don't have a lot of practice time. We're getting adjusted during the games."

So Rondo as well as his teammates must continue to exercise patience during this transition period.

"Rondo is a great player," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "It is just going to take time for him to get used to everybody. We all have to get used to each other. The good thing is we are all open to it and we all have the same goals."

And while the man holding down the point guard duties (Jordan Crawford, now in Golden State following three-team deal earlier this month) prior to Rondo's return showed a willingness to be a pass-first playmaker, no one is confusing Crawford's contributions to those that can be made by Rondo, a four time All-Star.

"We had a similar, but just not as elite (point guard) in Jordan Crawford," said Jared Sullinger. "Rondo slowly is learning the offense on the fly. He is competing. It's only a matter of time before Rondo officially takes over like last year."

Rondo isn't close to shifting into take-over mode, but there are very tangible signs that he's making the kind of progress that bodes well for both him and the Celtics going forward.

When asked about his conditioning and what does he need to see that indicates progress, Rondo responded, "me not begging to come out."

There was none of that on Sunday night.

In fact, it was just the opposite.

When head coach Brad Stevens went to take Rondo out in the second quarter, it appeared as though Rondo was trying to lobby his coach to let him play longer.

"I was," said Rondo, who added with a grin, "It's going to happen (again)."