The TD Garden played host to some festive games during the month of December, including reunions with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The TD Garden played host to some festive games during the month of December, including reunions with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But January started with what would have been an unexpected return just a couple of weeks ago: Rajon Rondo‘s first game in Boston as a visitor.

Rondo did not plan on letting his team lose this one. Dallas jumped out to a lead and held onto it for the entire game. The Mavericks ended the third quarter with a 92-64 lead, and despite the C’s cutting the gap to 10 in the fourth, the Mavs wound up victorious by a score of 119-101. Click here for a full box score.

This night was all about one man, though. So here’s five things we learned in Rondo’s return to Boston:

RONDO GOT OFF TO A HOT START

Rondo scored the first 10 Maverick points of the game in just under five minutes of action, but it didn’t stop there. Rondo went on to finish the first quarter by pouring in 15 total points on 6-for-6 shooting (3-for-3 from downtown). Rather than fans cheering (as they did during Rondo’s video tribute), this left many with their hands on their heads gasping, “Where was this when he was in Boston?”

RONDO HAD HIS BEST GAME SINCE TEARING HIS ACL

We all know Rondo likes to preform when the stage is brightest, and that was no different in his homecoming to Boston. Rondo’s hot start propelled him to 29 points — the most since before tearing his ACL in Jan. of 2013. Rondo finished a ridiculous 12-for-19 from the field and connected on five of his seven 3-pointers on top of it all. Rondo didn’t stuff the stat sheet quite as he did in Boston, but his six rebounds and five assists went pretty nice alongside his scoring outburst.

RONDO ACTUALLY SHOOTS THE BALL FOR DALLAS

Some people were skeptical about whether or not Rondo was trying his hardest while playing for the rebuilding Celtics. Nights like Friday don’t make that argument any better. Rondo took exactly three shots in three of his final five games as a member of the Celtics.

But in Dallas? So far Rondo has taken at least 10 shots in all seven of his games as the Mavericks’ point guard. He has also scored in double-figures in all of those games besides his first game after the trade.

THE CELTICS NEED TO ESTABLISH A ROTATION 

Brad Stevens needs to put a rotation in place to establish some order on the team. The Post-Rondo era has been reminiscent of a summer league team where any players’ minutes are practically unpredictable. Boston does have a lot of players that would be getting minutes on most teams, but 11 guys playing double-figure minutes seems excessive. Use the minutes to let you young players develop. Which leads us to …

MARCUS SMART NEEDS TO PLAY MORE POINT GUARD

If you asked anyone who is knowledgable about basketball why the Celtics drafted Smart, this would be your answer: “To replace Rondo.”

Well Rondo is now gone and Smart still has not locked down the point guard job. Yes, he’s a rookie who has been often injured, but Smart needs to learn how to play the point guard position in the NBA. With Evan Turner starting and Jameer Nelson playing 14 minutes off the bench, Smart is left as a reserve combo-guard flip flopping between positions all game.

Smart did play 28 minutes, but starter’s minutes in a more consistent role would likely benefit all parties involved. Smart would be able to develop early as the Celtics get a good look at how they need to work with their leader of the future.

 

 

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Rajon Rondo was introduced for first time as a member of the Dallas Mavericks since he was traded by the Celtics in December.

Rondo scored the first 10 points of the game for Dallas, including a pair of 3-pointers on his first two attempts from long distance.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Rajon Rondo returns to TD Garden Friday night.</p>
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Marcus Smart had a reputation in college as someone who wouldn’t back down. Now that reputation is carrying over to the NBA.

Marcus Smart had a reputation in college as someone who wouldn’t back down. Now that reputation is carrying over to the NBA.

That attitude was on full display on New Year’s Eve Wednesday at TD Garden. In the fourth quarter of Boston’s 106-84 win over the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins threw Smart to the floor after a box out under Boston’s basket.

Cousins had been frustrated by Smart running through a pair of picks earlier.

“I did have an issue,” Cousins said. “It didn’t start with the box out. It was the pick, he tried to run through my chest and then he came and I felt he took a cheap shot on the box out. That resulted to what happened. Even with that being said, I’ve got to make better decisions. The team depends on me every night and I just can’t do things like that.”

Asked if he thought Smart went low on the box out, Cousins said, “absolutely.”

“It was a box out. That’s his opinion,” Smart answered. “Everybody saw the play. Like I said, I’m not going to back down from anything and if that’s what he thinks, that’s what he thinks.”

Several years back, Cousins was hurt on a similar play while setting a pick.

“I did. Even with that being said, I’ve still got to make better decisions,” Cousins said. “I’ve still got to keep my emotions in check. Even with that happened, I still think that could have been avoided. I’m blaming nobody but myself for that.”

As for Smart, who infamously ran into the stands at Texas Tech when he was a senior at Oklahoma State, he wanted to send a message during the game, and after.

“I want people to think of me as just a tough guy that’s never going to back down from anything and is not going to take nothing from nobody,” he said. “To be honest, I’m not really worried about that. He knows that I’m not going to back down from it. I don’t see why I got the tech. I don’t know. They didn’t really tell me that but it’s all good. I’m one of those guys that’s not going to back down from anything. I’m going to let that be known.

“I was just boxing out. But that’s out of my control and my hands. At the time, the referees made a decision that they thought was best fit for the game. I can’t really control that.”

As for running thru the pick that Cousins set that ticked of Cousins earlier: “That’s what he thinks. I’m just playing defense.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

It was quite a New Year’s Eve party in the Garden on Wednesday afternoon, as DeMarcus Cousins provided the fireworks and Gino started the dance party during the Celtics‘ 106-84 win over the Kings.

It was quite a New Year’s Eve party in the Garden on Wednesday afternoon, as DeMarcus Cousins provided the fireworks and Gino started the dance party during the Celtics‘ 106-84 win over the Kings.

A frustrated Cousins (11 points, 11 rebounds) earned his second technical foul of the game in the fourth quarter, but by that time it was already Gino Time. Jared Sullinger led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow Ohio State product Evan Turner added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kelly Olynyk (15 points), Jae Crowder (12 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) all scored double-digits off the bench.

The C’s improved to 11-18, remarkably just three wins out of the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed.

FRUSTRATING COUSINS

Asking Celtics center Tyler Zeller to curb Kings counterpart DeMarcus Cousins‘ production was a tall order on New Year’s Eve, but Zeller drank in the challenge, causing all sorts of problems for Cousins. The Sacramento star missed eight of his first nine shots and earned his first technical foul for his trouble. Cousins still got his double-double, of course, but Zeller’s early effort helped the Celtics establish a 49-39 halftime lead.

POINT GUARD OF THE FUTURE

Despite the presence of rookie Marcus Smart and veteran Jameer Nelson on the roster, erstwhile wing Evan Turner is proving once again he’s the best point guard on the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics. Starting at the point for the second time since the Rondo trade, Turner collected double-digit assists for the first time in his career.

SULLY’S BURSTS HIS DOUBLE-DOUBLE BUBBLE

After calling the Celtics “sweet and soft” following Saturday’s loss to the Wizards, Sullinger described Tuesday’s practice as a “WWE”-style royal rumble, and the Celtics forward responded with his first double-double in five games. Interestingly, the C’s asked their players on the Jumbotron which teammate they would pick as a tag-team partner, and Smart selected Sullinger because of his “caboose.” The Celtics badly need that backside bumping its way to the basket going forward.

SMART SHOOTING

Coming off the bench behind Turner, Smart connected on three of his five 3-point attempts, collecting 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals in arguably his best performance side returning from the ankle injury. Plus, he got Cousins tossed on the Kings center’s second technical foul, showing a fight the Celtics have rarely seen since Kevin Garnett left Boston.

JUST NOT WRIGHT

Brandan Wright, the supposed centerpiece of the Rondo deal, played just five minutes before entering the game again in garbage time. Soon-to-be Brandon Bass, who has expressed his displeasure with a dwindling role, came off the bench before the 24-year-old newcomer. Whether it was the squeaky wheel getting the grease or not, the C’s need to find time to figure out what they got in Wright. On the bright side, Crowder came off the bench to score a dozen, and Nelson added eight assists in his reserve role.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Despite his league-leading assists average, former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo wasn’t the player over the past season we came to know during three trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2008-12. That much is certain.

Rondo’s true shooting dipped to an alarmingly low level in 2014-15 (career-worst 42.2 percent), and his performance on the other end was no longer All-Defensive worthy. As a result, the Celtics proved better both offensively and defensively without him on the court, per Basketball Reference.

While Rondo’s decline at the age of 28 appeared a result of a player once reliant on slicing and scrapping his way into the restricted area still struggling to recover both physical and mentally from a serious knee injury, there have been rumblings in the fortnight since his trade that the regression might have been the result of another factor entirely: Effort.

“He’s always up to stuff when he’s locked in, and I think that’s the guy that Dallas is getting,” Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons told writer Zach Lowe during their podcast last week. “In Boston, he would just give up the ball and just stand there, and I do think they had to trade him. It was too bad that was the way it worked out, not just from what we were seeing from the games, but from what I was hearing. In practice, when you have your guy who’s the unquestioned best guy on the team and the quote unquote ‘leader’ of the team, and he’s just not going hard in practice at all, that puts a coach who is trying to get through to young players in a really bad spot. And I think they knew they had to trade him.”

That’s new information, and while some hearsay can be discarded as the customary smear campaigning from Boston teams in the wake of major trades, Simmons’ sources aren’t the only ones dropping hints.

“He wanted out,” Rondo’s former Celtics teammate and current Thunder center Kendrick Perkins told Yahoo Sports in the immediate aftermath of his trade to the Mavericks in exchange for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson and a protected first-round pick, “but he would never say that though.”

While Rondo publicly maintained his desire to remain in Boston, where he won a title alongside Perkins as an NBA sophomore in 2008, there are those who question whether the erstwhile Celtics captain was as committed to the team behind the scenes. Count Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among them.

As brought to our attention by @MrTrpleDouble10, Cuban conceded to The Dallas Morning News, “If you’ve ever been in a company that’s failing €… you know, the effort isn’t the same. It’s no different.”

In his first five games on the Mavericks, at least, the numbers reflect Cuban’s assertion. Albeit a limited sample size in Dallas, but Rondo is attempting two more field goals within five feet of the basket than he shot per game in Boston, and he’s increased his scoring by 5.3 points per contest — nearly matching his pre-injury average of 13.7 points. Likewise, the Mavs have allowed 10.1 fewer points with Rondo on the court, according to Basketball Reference. As Simmons suggested, he’s “up to stuff” more often.

Rondo is gone. Had he remained for the rest of the season, in all likelihood the soon-to-be free agent would’ve left for nothing over the summer. There’s little use in debating his performance any longer, but these rumblings leave us wondering whether Danny Ainge could’ve received a better return had his captain stayed fully committed. Just one more question Rondo leaves unanswered in Boston.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.