He has slashed his way into the national consciousness. Every layup, every rebound, every pass that impossibly finds the hands of a teammate… elevates Rajon Rondo closer to the upper echelon of NBA stardom.
Of course, we all knew he belonged there in the first place. But the ascension of a player from good to great is like the spreading of a new trend across the country. Consider him the NBA's version of Twitter. Hardcore users knew how great it all was a long time ago. Then, even as some people still made fun of it/him (Twitter's "who cares about every bit of minutiae in my life" = Rondo's "he can't shoot a jumper") more people caught on. Now, everyone's seeing the greatness.
Rondo is this year's player who uses the playoffs to thrust himself into the national spotlight. And while we've been banging the Rondo drum for a while, it's pleasing to see the rest of the country bear witness to what we've seen.
It's also amazing to see Rondo elevate his game even higher in the playoffs. He's destroying the Bulls defense almost at will. He's SIXTH in the NBA in rebounding for the playoffs (half a rebound per game from being 3rd, and almost 3 full boards more than Tim Duncan, of all people). Rondo, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul are the only 3 players averaging double-digits in assists… and less than a full assist separates them.
And that's really where this is going. The early scoffing at the mention of Rondo in the same class as Paul or Williams has been replaced by nods of agreement. The days of putting DWill and CP3 in one class, and lumping Rondo in with the "next group" are over. America is starting to finally realize that Rondo is an elite point guard, and I couldn't be happier.
And in a weird way, I'm actually a little happy that he froze in two big moments in game 4. At the end of regulation, he should have tried to take Rose off the dribble and create a shot for himself or someone else, rather than take a jumper. At the end of the second overtime, when a quick shot and foul was the right play, Rondo dribbled out precious seconds while trying to find Ray or Paul for a game-tying 3. I'm happy because it shows that even as great has he has been, as highly as the world thinks of him, there is room for improvement. And that's exciting. As good as he is, he's going to get a lot better.
The timing of this can't be any better. The 3 in "Big 3" has always partly stood for "3 year window." Next year is year 3. And it's time for the torch to be passed to Rondo as the main threat on this team. Next year, Rondo begins the process of taking the reins of this team, and Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett start their process of stepping back. Their days will come to an end soon enough. Pierce looks tired. KG's starting to get bit by the injury bug. And Ray's only got so many jumpers left in those legs. Rajon Rondo is a 23 year-old budding phenom who is still growing. Soon, he'll develop that killer instinct that tells him to go for it in the last seconds because he's got the best chance to make something happen. Soon, he'll move from "I've got to make sure all my guys are happy and getting shots" to "I've got to make sure I can carry this team to a win… while setting the other guys up in spots where they can help me."
Rajon Rondo is unequivocally the future of the Boston Celtics franchise. He can be the next great Celtic. In 10 years, maybe it's Paul Pierce walking out with the Larry O'Brien trophy handing it to a teary Rajon Rondo. Maybe in 20 years, Derrick Rose is standing on the Garden floor pulling his Bulls warmups back to reveal a Celtics shirt on Rajon Rondo night. Maybe in 30 years, its Rondo with a headset on doing color commentary… complaining about how we're getting screwed by the refs. It's still too early to say whether any of that will happen… but Rajon Rondo makes me think its all possible.