I glossed over this in my game recap (I should have discussed it more), but Rajon Rondo started off last night’s game horribly. He looked either drunk, high, halfway asleep, or D) All of the above. He airmailed one pass into the 12th row. He jumped into the air to throw another pass, and simply dropped it on the floor when he found nobody open. Sometime near the end of the first quarter, I thought to myself, “This is weird. Rondo’s not controlling this game. At all.”
Thankfully, it didn’t happen for long. Rondo started involving everybody (Paul Pierce said it was literally everybody, ”He got the popcorn man involved, he got the announcer involved, he got everybody involved tonight.”) and the rest was history. No, really, it was history. Rondo was just the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double while also registering 24 assists. (The other player? Isiah Thomas, who also had 24 assists in his triple-double. That could be a bad sign if Rondo ever chooses to become a GM.) His 24 assists were also the second-highest single-game total in Celtics history (Bob Cousy, 28), and his 50 assists so far this year tie John Stockton for the most assists ever over a season’s first three games.
Somehow, Rondo put his initially putrid start behind him. It reminded me of that saying you always hear about great shooters – they may miss twelve shots in a row, but they know the next one’s going down. Rondo may have turned the ball over twelves times in a row (okay, not really, it just felt like it), but he knows things are going to turn around. He has the confidence to stay aggressive even after all those miscues.
“Usually when you start off turning the ball over you get conservative,” Doc Rivers told CelticsBlog’s Jimmy Toscano. “It’s rare that you start the way he started the game and then still end up with the game he had. That’s a great sign for us and his mental toughness. A year ago, two years ago, no way that happens. He holds onto it or he calls safe plays.”
Not anymore. The new, aggressive Rondo seems here to stay. Gradually, he has become accustomed to his role as the Celtics’ most important player. Gradually, he has grown from the weak link on a title team to the MVP for a contender.
“They kept trusting in me,” Rondo told the Boston Herald. “Doc stayed with me, as well. If it wasn’t for that, it probably would have been the worst game I ever played.
“The first half was pretty bad. I couldn’t make shots, I turned the ball over, missed free throws. I just kept grinding, kept going. And, like I said, they believed in me.”
But more importantly, he now believes in himself. Even after things go wrong. Even after a few of his passes target the wrong team, or the man in the 12th row, or even the TD Garden floor.
“I give my teammates credit,” Rondo said, later adding, “It’s all about your teammates.”
Not always, Rondo. A lot of the time, it’s all about you.