By Josh Cook
There is one person, and one person only, to blame for the one month we've already had of seemingly endless speculation about the future destination of NBA star LeBron James.
And that person is Rajon Rondo.
The lithe 6-foot-1, 171-pound, 24-year-old Boston Celtics point guard, and Louisville native, may have single-handedly ended James' season (and maybe his career with the Cleveland Cavalier), and saved the C's, with his Game 4 performance in the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals.
And in the process Rondo, whose local basketball camp begins next Monday at the Basketball Academy, became the breakout star of the NBA Playoffs, and maybe the entire season.
The former point guard at Eastern High School and the University of Kentucky experienced the best season of his professional career in 2009-10. He posted career-high averages in scoring (13.7 points per game), assists (9.8 per game), steals (2.3 per game) and field-goal shooting (50.8 percent). He also made his first NBA All-Star team and helped Boston become the third-lowest seed (No. 4) to advance to the NBA Finals since the league adopted a 16-team postseason format in 1984.
"As Rondo goes so go the Celtics," announcer Mark Jackson said during ABC's telecast of Game 3 of the Finals. "He has carried them on his back all season."
That was never more true than the Playoffs when Rondo, four years removed from UK, averaged 15.8 points, 9.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Celtics.
Rondo turned up his game in the postseason. He averaged 14.8 points, 10.2 assists and 6.2 assists as Boston beat Miami in five games in the first round of the playoffs before his star turn against James and the Cavs.
Rondo averaged 20.7 points, 11.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game and in Game 4 of the series he turned in an incredible performance. In that game he scored 29 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out 13 assists in Boston's 97-87 victory which tied the playoff series at 2-all and sparked the fourth-seeded Celtics to three straight victories in their upset of the top seed Cleveland.
Then in the Celtics' 4-2 series victory over Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals Rondo averaged 14.3 points and eight assists per game in addition to delivering one of the signature plays of the 2010 Playoffs.
It happened in Game 3 of that series when he chased down a loose ball, dived between the legs of Magic guard Jason Williams to corral the ball, then scooped it up and kissed in a shot off the backboard. It was a highlight that was replayed over and over again. It was the kind of slight-of-hand play that Rondo made look commonplace in these playoffs as he helped Boston back into the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.
In the NBA Finals he averaged 13.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game, highlighted by his triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) in Game 2. That helped bring about one of the biggest moments of Rondo's young career - a one-on-one interview with legendary Lakers star "Magic" Johnson. The premiere point guard in NBA history sat down with the premiere point guard of the 2010 NBA Playoffs in a meeting of Old School and New School.
"It's just all been coming together at the same time," Rondo, who won a championship ring with the Celtics in 2008, told Johnson of his "arrival" in the 2010 Playoffs. "I'm a student of the game, I just want to continue to get better."
By most accounts Rondo is a succinct, soft-spoken guy. All you have to do is listen to him at a press conference, or an interview. He answers questions like he plays on the court, quick but cool.
With that same kind of swiftness Rondo is blazing a trail into the rearview mirrors of the NBA's best point guards (i.e. Steve Nash and Chris Paul).
And though he didn't get his second NBA championship ring he kept the King (James) from getting his. And in the process he proved that he belongs on the same court with the best basketball players in the world.
Photo courtesy Rajon Rondo's blog at Yardbarker.com