Patriots

MVP would be a 'dream' for Rondo

900095.jpg

MVP would be a 'dream' for Rondo

BOSTON -- The question of whether or not Rajon Rondo would be able to return from a sprained right ankle was "the" topic of conversation prior to Saturday's game against the Toronto Raptors.

Within minutes of Rondo stepping on the court, his ankle became an afterthought. By the end of the game, the questions shifted from "How does your ankle feel?" to "How would it feel to be MVP one day?"

Rondo dished 20 assists in 32 minutes (including seven dimes in the first quarter), extending his 10 assist streak to 33 games dating back to March 11. He is now four games shy of tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history (37).

The longer Rondo extends the stretch -- and the more consistently he knocks down his jump shots -- the more frequently his name is mentioned in MVP talks.

"MVP is in the picture. I would like to be one day, but we've just got to keep winning," Rondo said after the Celtics 107-89 win. "Who wouldn't want to be? That's a dream."

This season Rondo is averaging 13.3 points (52.0 FG), 13.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. He doesn't shoot lights out and his jumper will continue to be critiqued, but his impact on the game is immeasurable.

"You know Ive always looked at someone as MVP as someone makes his players not only better, but is able to dictate the game from different stat wise, is able to get rebounds, does multiple things for his team," said Kevin Garnett. "Thats preference. Obviously I'm going to be bias because I play with him, I see his growth and I see how hard he works. But when it comes to his presence on the game, that's hard. That's up there with the modern day Kobes and LeBrons and all that. I think he gets his knocks because he doesn't score the ball and all that. When you look at the overall package, it's unbelievable what he's doing."

Rondo's game is enigmatic, and he likes it that way. Opponents and teammates alike are forced to read where his next pass is going, a learning curve for those who play with him and a challenging task for those defending him.

Even head coach Doc Rivers could not put Rondo's game into words. He considers Rondo "a rare bird" and likened his passing stretches to those of stars such as Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, and Stockton.

"Its an offense in itself," said Rivers. "Weve always said that about him. We have an offense and then he creates another offense at times. Hes a tough one. I sit with a lot of coaches and we brainstorm how to guard him, and I love hearing them because I know the wrong ones. I dont ever say much. But its hard because hes so smart. Now hes making the shot, its a lot harder."

Garnett knew within days of meeting Rondo five years ago that the young guard had immense potential, the kind that goes beyond his physical capabilities. After seeing how he dictated the flow of the game, Garnett offered a promising prediction.

"I evaluate the game from not just the scoring perspective but a defensive perspective too," said Garnett. "I told him a long time ago when I first met him that he had the potential to do both, he had the energy and IQ to do both, and it was up to him. Obviously you all are seeing what his product is coming out to be. The future is whatever he wants it to be. I've always said with Rondo, it's always between his ears. Consistency is everything and whatever you put into this, that's what you're going to get out. He's doing a great job of it."

Rondo will look to continue his streak on Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. He said his ankle felt "half-way decent" playing against the Raptors, assessed it as "79 percent" after the game, and expects he will be "94 percent" better for the next game. He proved on Saturday that a sprained ankle was no match for the way he plays his game.

"It's something I look forward to every night," Rondo said of his assists. "Just trying to make my teammates happy, and somehow I keep getting to ten."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

MORE:

 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE