Celtics

Rondo struggling without a true backup

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Rondo struggling without a true backup

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The season could not have gotten off to a better start for Rajon Rondo.

His numbers in just about every category were on the rise as he emerged as an early dark-horse MVP candidate.

But since the fast start, Rondo's game has cooled off considerably.

He's still the NBA's assists leader this season, but he has failed to record 10 or more assists in Boston's last five games -- his longest such stretch this season.

So what happened?

A lot, actually.

If you trace the origin of Rondo's game falling off some, it was around the Feb. 24 deadline in which the Celtics traded away Kendrick Perkins, one of Rondo's closest friends.

Coincidence?

Perhaps.

More problematic for Rondo has been the fact that for the bulk of this season, he hasn't had a true backup at the point guard position.

Nate Robinson had the job for a while before being traded, but Robinson's minutes were limited because he was inconsistent.

That's not a surprise when you consider putting him at the point was, in effect, asking him to play a position that doesn't play to his strengths.

Injuries and a suspension limited Delonte West to just eight games played this season.

His most recent ailment has been a sprained ankle that has lasted nearly two weeks.

West told CSNNE.com earlier that he was going to play Wednesday against Indiana "for sure," but with West -- and injuries -- you just never really know.

And then there was Avery Bradley, the Celtics' first-round pick from last June's NBA draft.

A 6-foot-3 combo guard, Bradley has had his ups and downs running the Celtics offense, which is why they felt implored to go out and sign Carlos Arroyo last week.

Rondo finally has a backup, and he couldn't be any more thrilled about it.

"He's a legit point guard, pass-first point guard," Rondo told CSNNE.com. "He's very vocal. He plays smart. He knows what to look for. That's a great pick up for us."

Rondo has missed action earlier this season with plantar fasciitis, but it is unclear if that is a factor in his recent struggles.

Both Rondo and coach Doc Rivers said health-wise, the previous injuries he has been dealing with are not issues now.

"He's human," Rivers said after Boston's 88-79 loss at New Jersey on Monday. "He's going to go through stretches just like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. They've all gone through stretches."

But it's different with Rondo simply because of the role that he plays in the C's success.

Offensively, he is the initiator.

Even though Garnett is the Celtics' defensive anchor, Rondo's defense typically sets the tone for the rest of the team.

With that backdrop, it's not surprising that Rondo believes he has to be the one to get the C's back on track.

"Yeah, I think . . . just trying to get healthy," said Rondo, who tweaked his right ankle against the Nets and had to leave the game to have it re-taped before returning. "It's been a long season."

The addition of Carlos Arroyo should help lessen Rondo's load some, which is something Rondo acknowledges can only help him and the Celtics.

"He's a legit point guard, pass-first point guard," Rondo told CSNNE.com. "He runs a team, he's very vocal. He plays smart. He knows what to look for. That's a great pick-up for us."

And while Rondo wants to play every minute he can, he's been in the grind long enough to know that any chance to get some rest heading into the playoffs, should not be shunned.

"It helps with the rest, as far as getting some rest," Rondo said. "Especially going into the playoffs, the more he's comfortable, the more he'll know what we're looking for as a team, the more rest I'll get. It'll only help my game."

And that would allow Rondo a chance to finish the season off about where it began -- at the top of his game in helping lead the Celtics to victory.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kyrie Irving was able to participate in all of Celtics practice on Saturday and is expected to be back on the floor when the C's host the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Irving did not play in an 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday because of soreness in his left shoulder.

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He will continue to receive treatments for the shoulder, “but I’m just ready to go back out there and play,” Irving said. “I’ve had a few days to reset and do the things needed to put myself in a great position to go out there and play.”

Irving said earlier that the shoulder had been bothering him for a couple weeks and an overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday didn’t help matters.

Still just 25 but recently named to his fifth All-Star team, Irving’s return could not come at a better time for the Celtics.

Boston (34-12) has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the C's are riding a two-game losing streak, which is only the third time this season they've lost back-to-back games.

Arguably Boston’s biggest issue in the loss to the Sixers was an offense that struggled in several phases.

Not having Irving available certainly made matters worse, but there were a number of elements of play that with Irving or not, coach Brad Stevens recognizes his team must make a significant improvement in if they are to remain among the top teams in the NBA.

Stevens talked extensively after the loss and again on Saturday about the team not playing hard enough on offense.

“I don’t want to take away from the teams we’re playing against. They’re really guarding us hard,” Stevens said. “But we’ve got to execute harder. The one thing that’s pretty obvious in person and when you watch on film, is we just didn’t play hard enough on offense which is kind of unique. That’s the way I felt.”

Irving said there needs to be an increase in emphasis on their offense, which would make the game easier for everyone.

“Our spacing, our cutting … just playing the game kind of within the game, understanding our talents and where we can make the game easier,” Irving said. “We have very unique talents on this team. When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

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Celtics sign Jarrell Eddie to 10-day contract

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Celtics sign Jarrell Eddie to 10-day contract

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have signed Jarell Eddie to a 10-day contract.

The 6-foot-7 forward, who has spent two seasons in the NBA with Washington and Phoenix, has appeared in 31 NBA games.

More recently, he played with the Gatorade League’s Windy City Bulls. Appearing in 10 games, Eddie, 26, averaged 17.2 points while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from 3-point range along with 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

He will wear jersey No. 9.