Look up and down this Boston roster for the one player with the potential to blow up and become bigger than ever. Hands down, the answer is the C's young point guard. Rajon Rondo is 23, he's coming off an outstanding postseason, and he's poised to aspire to bigger and better things as the floor leader of a veteran Celtics team.
It's hard to believe that Rondo's still as young as he is. He was the starting point guard on an NBA champion at 22, and it's hard to improve when you reach the top of the world so soon. But Rondo, make no mistake about it, has continued to get better.
Last season, Rondo set statistical career highs all across the board. Not deterred by the sea of big stars floating around Boston, Rondo got his, averaging 11.9 points, 8.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. He topped 30 minutes a night for the first time, proving that he's ready to take on an increased role. Now that Rondo's reaching his peak, that role will only get bigger.
In the playoffs, he proved he was ready to kick it up a notch. With Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe absent, Rondo filled the void and then some. He came within a hair of averaging a triple-double in the '09 postseason — another 0.2 assists and 0.3 rebounds would have done the trick.
With the flashy numbers, he's bound to generate attention all over the league. In fact, it wouldn't be a bit surprising to see the young Boston guard in Dallas for the 2010 All-Star Game.
But Rondo is about a lot more than stats and individual accolades. He's matured as a player over the past couple of years, and he wants to help this team win. More than just points and assists, he wants to get it done on the defensive end.
"I think he’s a better defender this year than he was last year by far because he’s doing more team things," coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe last week. "He’s not gambling as much, he’s staying in front of the ball, he’s doing a fantastic job of getting over pick-and-rolls. That was one of his weak points last year. He would reach on pick-and-rolls instead of getting in front of the ball and squaring it up."
Rondo obviously piles up the numbers. He's quickly becoming one of the NBA's elite point guards defensively. At this point, there's little he can't do.
And it's a good thing, too. Because this year, the Celtics are sure to look to Rondo more than ever to be a leader. He's come into his own after spending the last two years as a full-time starter, and he's now ready to prove that he's a leader.
It's unclear whether the Celtics will have a backup in place for Rondo. That role might fall to Lester Hudson, or Rivers might make a shift that moves Eddie House or Marquis Daniels away from his natural position to play the point. But when in doubt, the game plan will be simply to leave Rondo on the floor.
Rondo is ready to prove himself. And with his contract status sure to be a ubiquitous topic of conversation all year long, he'll be eager to showcase what he can do.
This summer, there's been a lot of talk about Rondo and his contract situation after 2010. All this talk of negotiations and extensions has obscured all the good stuff. The exciting story line, the one we should have been talking about all along, is that Rondo on the floor is about to become one of the most electrifying players in the NBA.