Commentary

Rondo comes out of his shell

Before letting his game talk on the court, guard opens up to reporters off it

Originally Published: May 7, 2009
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Eddie HouseElsa/Getty ImagesHouse had a night to remember, going off for 31 points, including four 3-pointers.

BOSTON -- We're going to take you beyond the obvious Wednesday, and we're not going to take a long, hard look at Rajon Rondo's triple-double so much as we're going to take a longer, more insightful look into Rajon Rondo the person.

Because that person, for some reason, made a conscious decision that he was going to come out of his shell Wednesday night. No more Mr. Super-Shy. No more Brand Bland.

Rondo has made a decision in his head that he doesn't want to remain a mystery anymore, and his best burst forth on this night with a vibrancy that was encapsulated by the play on which he reached his triple-double, driving the lane and splitting Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis for a vicious right-handed hammer dunk that put him in double figures in points late in the third quarter.

Rondo's final line of 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds was the centerpiece of the Boston Celtics' 112-94 demolition of the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, but there were some dandy supporting acts put on by Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House and the two-headed power forward combination of Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine that we'll hit on, too.

Big Three? We'll speak not of thee.

On this night, they were almost more insignificant a trio than Hedo Turkoglu, Lewis and Howard.

"I thought the whole team played with great energy," Boston coach Doc Rivers said, "and Rondo was just in attack mode. His speed was a factor, and we talk about it all the time: There's no guarantee that anybody is going to play well or not, but there is a guarantee you'll give yourself a chance when you play with what you do. And today, Rondo played with his speed. I mean, that's what he is. And when he plays with his speed, good things happen."

But the tale of Rondo's night cannot be fully told without talking about what happened beforehand, when he sat down at his locker stall and proceeded to chitchat for 20-plus minutes with the same roomful of reporters he has avoided like the plague throughout his three seasons in the NBA.

No question was off limits, no topic out of bounds.

When someone tried to get him to praise what Rafer Alston has brought to the Magic, Rondo shook him off before conceding that Alston is a fairly decent ball handler. But the praise ended there.

To the question of which point guards he considers the fastest two or three in the NBA, he prefaced his answer by asking "You mean besides myself?"

He said he hadn't been booed as hard as he was in Chicago since he attended Kentucky, where the home crowd didn't like him all that much and rode him constantly in his sophomore season, and he said he hadn't had a fight in a basketball game since high school (that Kirk Hinrich fling and that hard foul on Brad Miller's mouth do not count).

He also let on that he was considering accepting an invitation from Team USA to play in its minicamp in Las Vegas this summer to try to start working toward a spot on the 2010 World Championship team or the 2012 Olympic team, but the dates conflict with the time in late July when he annually takes his extended family on a vacation.

When it was suggested he just take the family to Las Vegas, Rondo hesitated.

"A lot of them are under 18. What are they going to do in Vegas?" he asked.

"Probably get in trouble," was the response, "although they do have some nice pools at those resorts."

"Nah," Rondo replied. "They all naked at those pools."

The Celtics locker room is one of the hardest in the league for beat reporters to work, with a majority of the players (Ray Allen is the exception) following Kevin Garnett's lead and treating the media as a hazard to be avoided. It was like pulling teeth earlier this season getting Rondo to consent to explaining why he wears his headband upside down and carries a tube of lip balm tucked in his sock, so I asked Rondo what was up with the newfound chattiness, and he explained that this was the new Rondo.

"You guys want a story, you come to me," he said.

Well, there was no need to go to him for a story once the ball went up, because he was the story as Boston took control by halftime behind his 12 assists. By then, the Celtics were ahead 61-46 with more assists (22) than the Magic had field goals (17) -- a stat that held up through the end as Boston collected 34 assists and Orlando made 31 buckets.

The Magic were completely devoid of energy as the second half got under way, their only outburst coming when Alston hit House in the back of the head with an open-handed slap after House buried one of his four 3-pointers (Question for Stu Jackson: If a player whacks someone in the back of the head, but his fist is not closed and he doesn't use his elbow, does that mean the crime is not suspension-worthy? I believe we have Thursday's gray-area topic).

Orlando's lack of fight continued through the fourth quarter, but although the players limped off the court the victims of an 18-point defeat, they left Boston with what they came for -- at least one victory. Still, the way this series has swung the Celtics' way since halftime of Game 1, you can't help but wonder whether there is a momentum shift taking place here being spearheaded by the Celtics players who do not earn 10-figure salaries.

We'll start with House, who was 11-for-14 from the field for a career playoff-high 31 points in just 27½ minutes. What exactly did he do to prompt Alston to take a swipe at his head?

"He shot an elbow at me, to my stomach, and it was just a natural reaction. But I have no hard feelings toward Eddie at all," Alston said. To the question of whether he's concerned he'll be suspended for Game 3 on Friday (ESPN, 7 ET), Alston said: "I'm concerned, but that's something I can't do much about now. If the NBA is cool and they look at the play in its entirety, they'll see that he threw the elbow first at my stomach."

Given Alston's shot selection in the first two games, perhaps Orlando might be better off having him cool his heels for 48 minutes because the difference in talent level at the point guard position has been quite distinct through the first two games.

Also distinct is how much Lewis has struggled, scoring 17 inconsequential points in this game as the Magic failed to heed coach Stan Van Gundy's instructions and feed him the ball when he is standing eight to 10 feet from the basket. Van Gundy said Davis and Scalabrine deserve credit for forcing Lewis far outside his back-to-the-basket comfort zone, and we'll add our own plaudits for the two power forwards' combining to shoot 78 percent (Davis was 4-for-5; Scalabrine 3-for-4).

And then there is Howard, aka Superman, who is getting a lesson in why kryptonite is green.

That green is being worn by Perkins, who has pushed Howard far enough out of his low-post comfort zone to expose just how limited Howard's low-post offensive repertoire is. Perkins shot 7-for-10 with nine rebounds and two blocks; Howard was held to 12 points and turned the ball over five times.

"We lost our composure, and they came out as focused as they said they were going to be. We didn't match their intensity right from the jump ball," Howard said. "All year long, we've been able to withstand a lot of blows, and tonight we didn't. I put the blame for that on myself."

He could blame Rondo and House, too, but this is not a blame game. This is a series, and it's coming with subplots and surprises that are building the drama. Act 3 will kick off the weekend, and Act 4 will end it, then we'll begin the start of the next workweek with a better idea of whether the Magic are truly championship material and whether the Celtics' supporting cast will continue to be so key to their title defense.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Sheridan, click here.