Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rajon Rondo continues his poor play, but Doc Rivers says he isn't slumping

Rajon Rondo is the engine that makes the Boston Celtics go.  His pace, his energy and his play have a huge impact on how the rest of the team plays and usually decides the team's outcome in games.  Kevin Garnett says that, Paul Pierce says that, Ray Allen says that and even Doc Rivers says that.  So is it a coincidence that the Celtics are struggling at a time when Rondo has been, for the lack of a better word, bad?

As poorly as Rondo has played over the last week or so, Rivers continues to avoid the "s" word that everyone else is placing on the All-Star point guard.

"I don't know if he's slumping. He's not playing great right now, but I don't think he's slumping or anything," said Rivers, who told reporters in New Jersey that Rondo's ankle was fine. "He's just going through a stretch. It's a long season. He's human the last time I checked, and he's going to go through stretches just like Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] and Kevin [Garnett]. They've all gone through stretches."

Rivers won't say it, but I will.  He's slumping.  He's slumping big time.  I'm not usually a stat person, but let's look at them anyway.  Rondo, who has been shooting nearly 50 percent from the field all season, is barely shooting 42 percent this month.  Over his last three games, he's racked up totals of 16 points and 17 assists.  Rondo had 16 points and 15 assists in the Celtics' win over Phoenix on March 2 alone.  What might be the most concerning stat, however is that he hasn't taken a free throw in nearly a week.

What do these numbers mean?  They mean that Rajon Rondo has been very tentative.  He hasn't been attacking the basket with his usual ferocity and creating good looks for himself or his teammates.  The lack of free throws for Rondo, who Rivers has said before should be going to the line 10 times a game, shows that.  There have been too many times over the last week when Rondo brings the ball up the floor and dribbles the heck out of it at the top of the key until there's 10 to 12 seconds left on the shot clock. At that point, he either makes one pass to a covered wing shooter, who has to force up a shot, or he just takes a long jumper himself and we all know how that story usually ends.

The aggressiveness, the peskiness and the in-your-face play is nowhere to be found and the Celtics are suffering from it.  The Celtics, with their ambiguous injury claims, won't tell us if there's a medical situation going on with him.  People wanting to blame his lethargic play on his rolled ankle last night apparently haven't been watching the Boston Celtics recently.  This has been going on a lot longer than the second half of last night's game.

The Celtics need to figure out a way to get him going.  With so much emphasis on the new guys and integrating them into the system, the biggest concern with this team is getting Rajon Rondo to play like Rajon Rondo.  If and when Rondo gets out of his slump, everything else will fall into place.

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