Rondo has been making headlines off the court for months, as Celtics management and Rondo's agent Bill Duffy have been working since June on hammering out a contract extension for the 23-year-old guard. They reached an agreement in the nick of time, working out the details on Monday morning, and now Rondo can go back to focusing on basketball.
He's capable of making even more headlines on the court than off it. The 2009-10 Celtics have only been at it for a week, but it's already clear that their young point guard is ready to be a superstar.
The first leg of the C's schedule has been a challenge for Rondo. In the team's opener at Cleveland, Rondo found himself staring down a quick, athletic pair of opposing guards in the Cavs' Mo Williams and Anthony Parker. Then, this weekend, he was matched up against the league's two best young point guards: first the Bulls' Derrick Rose on Friday night, then the Hornets' Chris Paul on Sunday. Right off the bat, Rondo got tested.
He passed with flying colors.
Against the Cavs, Rondo made those guards miserable all night. He applied relentless pressure, forced Williams and Parker into five turnovers, and was efficient on the other end of the floor, assisting on 10 Celtics buckets. In a fast-paced matchup with Chicago, Rondo was an absolute machine, piling up 16 assists and eight rebounds. Against CP3 and the Hornets, Rondo didn't shy away from the challenge, getting physical and refusing to be bossed around by New Orleans' MVP-caliber point man.
Rondo is now averaging 11.8 assists per game, second-most in the NBA, a number that puts him on pace to annihilate his previous career high. He's averaging 2.5 steals, also second in the league. Even his 5.0 boards a night are fourth in the NBA among point guards.
But the most important stat is the Celtics' record: 4-0. Rondo has quarterbacked a Celtics offense that has moved the ball with intelligence, poise and unbelievable teamwork. You want ubuntu? Here's your guy.
After leading the Celtics past Rose and Paul, two of the game's best at what they do, Rondo has made a convincing case that he deserves to be seen as one of the elites himself. There's an impressive pantheon of active NBA point guards already in place, and it's not easy to leave your mark. But if Rondo wants to become one of the best, it's good to start by outplaying the best.
So far this season, he's been on top of his game like no one else. He's passing like Steve Nash in his prime and defending like Jason Kidd in his. He's the complete package.
But speaking of Steve Nash, the real test for Rondo will come later this week. If anyone doubts Rajon Rondo now, their opinion might change after Friday night — depending on how Rondo can perform against Nash, Amare Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns.
This month is Rondo's chance to break out. He's been hiding in the shadows cast by the Celtics' Big Three for far too long — but now he has the chance to prove himself as a great player in his own right. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are great players — but Rondo is, too.
So far, he doesn't have all the respect he'd like. After the Celtics' win over the Hornets on Sunday, Paul told the media that "Rondo is a lucky guy to play with guys like Pierce, Allen and Garnett" — implying, whether he meant to or not, that Rondo hasn't earned the star status he's now attaining.
Rondo has a chance to change that perception. Maybe this time next year, the C's Big Three will be lucky to be playing with him.