BOSTON — As 30-somethings who figure to play major minutes for the Celtics this season, Kevin
Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry have taken some obligatory rest this
preseason. Even relative youngsters like Brandon Bass and Darko Milicic have
been pulled back to keep minor injuries from turning into more serious ones.
Easing through October is seldom a bad thing for any NBA
player, so a day off here and there or a light load of minutes from game to
game is easily understood. Rajon Rondo has never sought to be understood,
though, and he certainly has never taken anything easy. The Celtics point guard
exhibited that throughout the exhibition slate, starting every game and
regularly playing more than 30 minutes whether the game was played in Albany or
Rondo did his thing again on Sunday, when he played almost
33 minutes in the Celtics' 88-79 loss to the Sixers. He posted a ho-hum (for
him) stat line of 12 points and 10 assists before bidding adieu to preseason
games for another year.
Still, Rondo's night was brilliant in its minimalism, which
is not something often said about the intense point guard. Rondo only scored 12
points, but he did so by shooting 6-for-12 from the field without a single trip
to the free throw line to pad his point total. He has had games when he has 10
assists by halftime, but on Sunday he racked up double-digit assists while
committing only one turnover. The less Rondo tried to do, the more he did for
the Celtics. They may have lost by nine points, but they were plus-one with
Rondo on the floor.
Rondo was never passive but he was never foolhardy, either. That
second part often gets him in trouble. He did not toss a no-look pass that,
while jaw-dropping, had no chance of being complete because his teammate did
not think a human being could lace a bounce pass around a corner between two
defenders while navigating the baseline. He kept it simple and, as a result,
was more efficient than he often is on those nights when he draws headlines for
another 18-assist, seven-turnover carnival.
Rondo will have to push the action sometimes for the Celtics
to maintain their championship pursuit. Often, though, he can pull back and control
the flow of the game as though it was just a preseason game in October.
After Sunday's game, the Celtics began an eight-day stretch
without a game as they prepare for the season opener against the Miami Heat on
Oct. 30. That is by far the longest layoff they will have all season, and
following last year's lockout-condensed campaign it will probably feel like an
Given more than a week to perfect the game plan, the Celtics
should be as ready as ever when they invade the AmericanAirlines Arena a week
from Tuesday. At least one member of the Celtics, however, would rather get a
jump on the regular season immediately.
"I'd rather just play [now], but I'm young," said
26-year-old forward Jeff Green. "Anybody else would probably love this
week, but I'm ready to start the season. The preseason was super-long. We had
great trips to Turkey and Milan and had some good preseason games back here but
I'm ready to get the season started."
The Celtics will take Monday and Tuesday off and return to
practice on Wednesday.
BIG LINEUP, SMALL IMPACT
Rivers started one of the funky lineups he promised all preseason
when he stuck Green in the starting lineup along with Pierce. Green became the
de facto shooting guard and had a 30-pound size advantage on the man he was
covering, Evan Turner. Yet the Celtics seldom went to that well early and Green
took only 10 shots in the game.
"We've run [that lineup], we just haven't started
it," Rivers said. "We like it OK. It creates problems, but I don't
think we took advantage of the matchups much. That was the disappointing part
of it. I thought we had matchups galore. We really never took advantage of it,
except out of timeouts, we did, but that was more choreographed."
Bass also started with Garnett, Pierce, Green and
Rondo after the initial starting lineup listed Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee
at the four and the two, respectively.