Leading Man: As Rajon Rondo Goes, So Do the Celtics

Rick EgglestonCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2010

BOSTON - JANUARY 31:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics gets by Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at the TD Garden on January 31, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash /Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

by Rick Eggleston

It’s not too late for the Boston Celtics to change this season’s team motto from “Reloaded” to “Rondo’d.”

Two years ago, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce led the Celtics to a championship. But if the C’s are to hoist their 18th banner to the rafters this season, it won’t be on the backs of the rapidly aging Big Three.

Instead, it'll be on the back of the league’s best all-around point guard in Rajon Rondo.

The fourth-year Kentucky product has single-handedly prevented the Celts from becoming an afterthought behind his inspired, refreshingly flashy, and complete style of play on both sides of the ball.

Grit and workman-like team play have always been hallmarks of Celtics teams, while flash and style have not.

Thanks to Rondo—whose career-high 18 assists and three thefts Friday surpassed the C’s single-season steals record with 168—the Celtics have made it onto video highlight reels a bit more than usual this season.

When Rondo is on his game, so are the Celtics, who are 39-18 when he registers two or more steals in a game, and 32-9 when he hits double-digits in assists.

And it’s on those helpers to Garnett, Allen, and Pierce that Rondo has brought the flash with a showtime-esque flair that hasn’t been seen on the parquet since the Bird-Magic glory days.

An individual effort by Rondo saw him burn Kings forward Sean May on Friday with a nifty behind-the-back dribble and fastbreak basket, while a familiar sight this season was realized yet again when he hit Garnett for an alley-oop jam.

Two nights earlier against Denver, Rondo reminded everyone why a couple of years ago Reebok made a commercial, and in the process, coined a new term after the all-star’s lightning-quick moves and exceptional court-sense, Rondo-ing the Nuggets for 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists.

With each game, Rondo is growing up before both the Big Three’s and Boston fans’ eyes—and they have to like what they see.

Fortunately, Celtics management is seeing the same things, as team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge got Rondo to ink a five-year, $55 million contract extension this past fall.

It’s a signing that may prove to be a bargain, especially if the C’s manage to win a couple more titles.