The Celtics' point guard has been battling a minor yet quite painful case of plantar fascitis. It's spread to both feet, the left more so than the right, and it reached the point Friday morning where team trainer Ed Lacerte told coach Doc Rivers that Rondo wouldn't play that night against the Bulls.
Then Rondo played anyway, and he gave the Celtics 10 points and 11 assists for his third double-double in six games this season.
The simplest explanation? Rondo's a competitor, and he hates being told what he can't do. You tell him he's not playing, and his first instinct is to prove you wrong.
The better explanation? Rondo knows how to rise to the occasion for big games.
In an Eastern Conference that's quickly become a breeding ground for good, young point guards, Rondo and the Celtics were matched up with three of the youngest and best this week. One by one, they took their shots at Rondo, and one by one, they walked away a little disappointed. Here are the numbers:
- Rodney Stuckey: 6-for-15, 15 points, one rebound, three assists, three turnovers
- Brandon Jennings: 5-for-13, 13 points, three rebounds, four assists, three turnovers
- Derrick Rose: 8-for-19, 18 points, five rebounds, nine assists, six turnovers
Not terrible numbers by any stretch, but not good ones, considering the three point guards Rondo faced this week are all threats to drop a 20-10 on any given night. Rondo averaged a double-double this week (12.0 points, 14.3 assists) against three rising stars, and he didn't allow a single one. His distinct matchup advantages are a big reason why the Celtics went 3-0 this week against three competitive Central Division foes, all of whom gave the C's some trouble last season.
From here, the road will only get tougher for Rondo.
On Sunday and Monday nights, the Celtics will embark on a road back-to-back against a pair of Western Conference title contenders in Oklahoma City and Dallas. That means that Rondo will tangle with Russell Westbrook on Sunday, and less than 24 hours later, he'll be in another city matched up with Jason Kidd.
Rondo loves to compete, and he loves to draw big matchups. But this sure is one relentless schedule.
On Nov. 13, Rondo takes on Memphis' Mike Conley, who just inked a $45 million contract and is eager to prove he deserves it. On Nov. 17, he faces John Wall, a leading contender for Rookie of the Year. On Nov. 19, it's Westbrook again.
The challenges don't stop coming.
Rondo has downplayed the reports of his foot injury, although his coach and trainer insist that it's very real. And he's said that yes, he definitely enjoys getting up for the tough matchups like Jennings and Rose. All signs point to Rondo being geared up for the tough games ahead.
The next week will be tough for all of the Celtics, but none quite like Rajon Rondo. If he can repeat this past week, the C's will be in good shape.