Rajon Rondo. The guy who pulls up on wide open lay ups to feed another teammate and pile up the dimes, had five assists yesterday.
It's actually the fifth time in the past month that Rondo has had five assists. You'd have to go back to November of 2009 to compile the next list of five games in which Rondo's had five or fewer assists. For the season, Rajon is still second in the league with 11.2 assists per game, but he's 4th since the All Star break with 9.4 per game.
We all know something is up. We can all see something's not right. I read it in the comments where people are using words like "regressed" to talk about his game. People see him taking steps back.
But maybe he's not. Maybe this is the opposite. Maybe these are growing pains.
The source of our Rajon ire is the fact that we're looking to him as our future. He's the guy that's going to carry this team when the Big 3 are gone. He's the guy that's going to have to suddenly morph from distributor-Rondo to do-everything-Rondo. We want to see the brilliance. We want to see him take over. We want to see a little bit of Derrick Rose in him.
But that's not something that can be done overnight.
Look at his last 10 games. He's making 44% of his jumpers from 16-23 feet… up from his season average of 40.5%. He's making 65.5% of his free throws, up from 56.9% for the season. So his jump shooting is getting a little better. So that's clearly not a regression. He's scoring more than he has all season (13.3 ppg vs. a 10.7 ppg season average). If he's scoring more, it stands to reason he'll be passing less. Add to that Ray Allen's massive struggles and of course Rondo's assists will be down. Not "five assists in a game" down… but down nonetheless. I'm not sure if this is Rondo's transition to more of a scoring guard… but it certainly can be. And on a team full of guys who still feel like they can be the primary scoring threat, that might not be going over so well.
And then there's the Perkins trade… which everyone wants to keep bringing up. There is no doubt that bugged him. He even said so in an interview with Jackie MacMulllan. Maybe the first real dose of "this is a business" hit Rondo harder than he expected, leading to more of an adjustment than he expected.
But that's gone now. Perk is happy in OKC and I'm sure he's told Rondo as much. I know Rondo is going through a weird "can't make an easy layup" phase. In April, he's shooting 47.4% at the rim. By contrast, he's shot 75% in February. In March that dropped to 56% and now he's here. Very odd for Rondo. There's no way that's going to last. And neither is his reluctance to actually get to the rim.
Yes, there is something up with Rondo, but its nothing we haven't seen before. Meanwhile, there are aspects of his game that are improving, which make Rondo's struggles a very nuanced debate. It's not any one thing that's getting to him. It's everything. It's adjusting to the way teams are playing him…. while keeping the Big 3 happy… while guarding super-fast guards… while dealing with guys on the floor that don't quite know where their going… while dealing with whatever injuries he has… while transitioning to being THE leader of the Boston Celtics.
It's easy for us to say "jeez Rondo, get your head out of your ass." But for a 25 year old playing with all that on his mind… and yeah, doing it without his best friend around to help him chill out a bit… it's difficult. But it's part of growing up in the NBA. And Rondo is growing up. The transition is happening now and sometimes its going to be painful. What we've got to do is be patient.
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