Commentary

Rondo should have record night

Updated: April 2, 2010, 1:08 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

For the second consecutive Friday, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is set to etch his name in Celtics lore as he prepares to pass (pun fully intended) Hall of Famer Bob Cousy and establish a new franchise single-season record for assists.

With Rondo's first assist tonight against the Houston Rockets, he'll tie Cousy's record of 715 set 50 years ago during the 1959-60 season. Sherman Douglas made a charge at the mark in 1993-94, dishing out 683 dimes over 78 games, but the record is finally set to topple on its golden anniversary.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers admits he's not typically wowed by numbers, but the mere fact it's taken this long for the record to fall speaks volumes.

"If Cousy had it that long, it's pretty damn impressive," Rivers said after Thursday's practice. "I'm so not impressed with numbers, if you want me to be honest, but obviously it's been a record that stood a long time, so there has to be some good in there."

Rondo handed out 659 assists last season, finishing fifth in the NBA. In a season in which he made his first All-Star appearance, Rondo currently sits third in assists this season behind only Phoenix's Steve Nash (824) and Utah's Deron Williams (742).

Rivers has seen improvement not only this year, but this month.

"Rondo's been terrific," Rivers said. "I think he's even been a better distributor the last month since Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] have bounced back and gotten their rhythm. He really understands when to have the ball in his hands and when to move the ball. His understanding of that is light years from where it was last year."

While talking this week with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Bill Doyle, Cousy, a Worcester resident, expressed great satisfaction in the fact it's Rondo breaking his 50-year-old record.

"I'm happy for Rondo," Cousy said. "I think he's had by far the best year of any Celtic, and I'm pleased he's going to add hopefully a meaningful accolade to all of that.

"In retrospect, I'm pleased that [the record] lasted so long and that Rondo was the one to break it."

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRajon Rondo was named to his first All-Star team this season.

Before last Friday's win over Sacramento, in which Rondo broke Rick Fox's franchise single-season record for steals (176 and counting), the fourth-year point guard said that numbers don't resonate with him right now.

"[The records] may mean more to me once I retire or I am away from here," Rondo said last week. "I am just focused on winning. It is a great accomplishment. This organization has won so many championships and has had some great players come through -- so many All-Stars have set records here. Hopefully down the line, [I will set the assists] record. At the end of the day I'm just trying to focus on getting wins; and individual accomplishments, they come in the path of doing great things for the team."

But Garnett, a veteran of 15 NBA seasons, noted, "Any time you get any record, whether it be assists or steals or rebounds, records don't just fall in your lap."

Especially in Boston. Rondo already set a more obscure franchise assists record this season when he passed Tiny Archibald for the most 15-assist games in a season. Rondo currently has seven on the year.

Even beyond all the records he's set this year, Rondo has taken his game to another level. After recording 23 double-doubles over his first three years in the league, he has posted 35 this season (tied for ninth in the NBA).

What's more, his numbers have soared above his career marks. He's averaging 13.5 points (up 3.9 over his career average of 9.6), 9.8 assists (up 4.1 over 5.7 for his career), and an NBA-best 2.41 steals per game (up 0.68 over 1.73 for his career).

The biggest knock on Rondo? His shooting remains inconsistent. While it's true his perimeter shooting is woeful at times, Rondo leads NBA guards in field goal percentage at 51.1 percent (a comfortable cushion ahead of second-place Nash at 50.5 percent).

And for all his troubles at the free throw line earlier in the year, Rondo has quietly made that a nonfactor, connecting on 39 of 55 free throws in March (70.9 percent) to pull his season mark up to 62 percent. This after shooting 38.5 percent (10-of-26) in October.

Ray Allen noted Thursday that Rondo simply seems like a more confident player -- even if confidence was never a problem with Rondo -- and might be the most versatile point guard he's ever played with.

"His athleticism -- I haven't played with a point guard as athletic as him," said Allen, noting Rondo's ability to score around the basket despite his size.

"I think last year he was hesitant. You could see a lot of hesitation in what he wanted to do and what he needed to do. Now he just goes out there and does it."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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