BOZICH | Playoff Rondo as good as any NBA guard in first round - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Playoff Rondo as good as any NBA guard in first round

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Former Eastern HIgh and UK guard Rajon Rondo is on the brink of leading New Orleans to a first-round upset of Portland. (AP Photo) Former Eastern HIgh and UK guard Rajon Rondo is on the brink of leading New Orleans to a first-round upset of Portland. (AP Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Rajon Rondo has been stiff-armed by Rick Pitino and benched by Tubby Smith.

Doc Rivers coached Rondo in Boston. He saw the ultra-competitive side of Rondo as well as the obstinate side, sometimes on the same possession.

Read Ray Allen's book. He mentions his former Celtics' teammate and point guard. Or Rick Carlisle's lips after Rondo came and went with the Mavericks.

Boston, Dallas, Sacramento and Chicago have all featured Rondo at point guard and moved on.

The word last summer was the New Orleans Pelicans were the only NBA team interested in letting Rondo, 32, run their team the way Rondo has been running basketball teams since he took control at Eastern High School as a freshman.

Guess what? Rondo might not be a guy Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade want to meet for lunch, but he still comes to the arena with the mojo he showed while winning all those playoff games with Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston.

Ask the Portland Trailblazers.

During the first three games of their first-round NBA Playoff series, the Pelicans, the 6 seed, have outplayed Portland, the 3 seed, three games to none. New Orleans is the only team to win twice on the road.

It also means Rondo and backcourt mate Jrue Holiday have outplayed Damian Lillard and C. J. McCollum, the Portland guards considered one of the best backcourts in the NBA.

No wonder Rondo has added a fourth nickname to the three -- Johnny, Swag and (my favorite) The Yoga Instructor -- he carried into the series.

That would be … Playoff Rondo.

It's self-explanatory. Put Rondo in the right situation, where his no-nonsense goals and approach percolate properly in the locker room, and he becomes the ultimate playoff warrior.

Every night is a triple-double possibility. Rondo is not a great shooter, but he gets important buckets. He's a determined and willing passer with teammates who remain comfortable playing off him. There's nothing Rondo enjoys more than beating a taller, lazier opponent to a rebound.

"Rondo's been the guy who's been able to kind of dictate the game," former Kentucky center Anthony Davis told Christian Boutwell of the New Orleans Advocate during this series.

Playoff Rondo numbers -- 12.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 12.3 assists.

Regular-Season Rondo averaged 8.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 8.2 apg over 65 games.

Guess who has eight more assists than any NBA player during the first week of the playoffs? Credit Rondo with 37, Ben Simmons with 29.

Guess who has more playoff rebounds (23) than any guard?

Guess whose team can close out a first-round sweep early Saturday evening?

Guess whose team will be positioned to challenge the defending champion Warriors (without Steph Curry) after closing out Portland?

Rondo, Rondo, Rondo.

"The season for me is split up into five different gears," Rondo said on Fox Sports New Orleans' game broadcast.

"You have your preseason, your regular season. Then you have your post All-Star push. Then you have playoffs. Then you have the [NBA] Finals. Each level, I think everyone should elevate their game."

Rondo doesn't get much national love any more, not that media love ever mattered to Rondo. He was discussed when Allen criticized him in his book or when he annoyed Thomas by questioning why the Celtics planned to honor a guy who played less than three full seasons for the franchise without winning a championship.

"What has he done?" Rondo famously said last winter.

Averaged a ton of points and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals (while playing through an injury).

"Oh, that's what we celebrate around here?" Rondo told reporters.

"This is the Boston Celtics. This isn't the Phoenix Suns, no disrespect to any other organization, but you don't hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?"

Remember, please, that Rondo was speaking as a former Celtic who plays for New Orleans. Then remember the guy has never lacked passion.

A consistent jumper, maybe. Passion? Never.

According to the story, the reporters questioning Rondo agreed that in Boston only championship banners go to the ceiling.

"Ok, cool," Rondo said.

That is the uncompromising Rondo. He has often inspired people to choose sides, back to his days at Eastern High and Oak Hill Academy, when Rick Pitino famously (and foolishly) decided Sebastian Telfair would be a better point guard prospect at the University of Louisville.

Now, when people describe Rondo as a coach on the floor, a player obsessed with preparation, there is reason to believe one day he will run his own team.

It was only a month ago when I received an email request from a public relations firm. They wondered if I was interested in talking to Rondo about his off-season plan -- coaching a group of players that included Larry O'Bannon and Alhaji Muhammad in The Basketball Tournament, a $2 million event staged every summer.

My answer was quick and succinct: Yes.

They said they would be in touch -- after Rajon Rondo finished with the important work he is doing in New Orleans.

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