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Rajon Rondo benched in crunch time in favor of Celtics’ rookie Marcus Smart

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

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The Celtics trailed by as many as 23 points to the Wizards on Monday, before staging a furious comeback to get back into the game and give themselves a chance.

Boston eventually lost a tough one in double overtime, and the team did it with its four-time All-Star watching from the bench.

Brad Stevens chose to ride with the group that was clicking at the time, and that meant that Rajon Rondo watched crunch time unfold while rookie Marcus Smart was running the show.

From A. Sherrod Blakely of

“Those guys deserved to play at the end,” Stevens said. “They got us right back in it. It was nothing against the guys that started. When you go from down 20 whatever we were, to right back in the game. Those guys deserved to play.” ...

“I didn’t have to look over my shoulder,” Smart told reporters after the loss. “He (coach Brad Stevens) had confidence in me and so did my teammates. As a rookie and as an athlete, that’s a good thing to have on a team.” ...

“Rajon was being Rajon on the bench,” Smart said. “Coaching us; he stayed talking, communicating with us ... that’s what a veteran does.”

By all accounts, Rondo had a positive attitude throughout it all, and it’s by no means unprecedented for a coach to manage his lineups in this way.

But this is notable for what it could do to fuel speculation about Rondo’s future.

There have been trade rumors surrounding Rondo for the past couple of seasons, and with him becoming an unrestricted free agent once this season is finished, if Boston believes it already has a capable replacement for him in Smart, the team could be convinced that dealing Rondo before the deadline is a wiser move than paying him max dollars to return for the next five seasons.