THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

Rondo's mates quick with the compliments

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / December 16, 2008
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There's always a comparison. Like, how different can point guards be?

So the question goes to Mr. Brian Scalabrine, a noted scholar of the game.

"Stylistically speaking, Mr. S, just whom does Rajon Rondo remind you of?"

"That's a good question," he replies. "I'm going to have to give you an answer on a different day. That's a research question."

That day may be a long time coming. Rajon Rondo may very well be utterly sui generis. Just one of those Rondos on The Ark, you know?

The Celtics beat the Utah Jazz for their 15th straight victory last night, and the indescribably different Celtics point guard was at it again: 25 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and, for an extra added attraction, 6 turnovers. That would be 25 points without the benefit of a single shot longer than 2 feet, but that's part of his charm.

One of these days, Rajon Rondo will incorporate a little pull-up jumper to his game. One of these days, he'll come down on the fast break and take a nice little 12-footer right off the bounce.

"He does it in practice," insists Doc Rivers. "It's just a matter of confidence. It will come. And when it does, it's all over."

And if he doesn't, well, the Celtics will have to make do with what he's offering on a nightly basis. It's a package of skills that has vaulted him pretty far up the pecking order of NBA point guards. Two months shy of his 23d birthday, Rondo now steps on the floor against just about anybody and the Celtics know the matchup is seldom worse than a draw, and it's usually in their favor.

Last night was considered to be a test. The opposing point guard was Olympian Deron Williams, generally regarded as one of the four best NBA point guards, along with Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and Steve Nash. On March 14, Williams absolutely abused the Celtics in a 110-92 thrashing right here in the Garden. Williams had 32 points and eight assists that evening, taking it to the basket at will while making 17 of 18 free throws.

Last night Williams was put in the Point Guards Protection Program until midway through the fourth period, when he made three straight baskets. But the night belonged to Rondo, who, as Kevin Garnett succinctly put it, "took control of the game at both ends," as the Celtics gradually pulled away for a sticky 100-91 triumph.

Rondo had an enormous impact on the game both at the beginning and at the end. He really did set the tone, taking it to the hoop with authority in the first period. In one stretch of just under two minutes, he picked up fouls on Paul Millsap , Mehmet Okur, and Williams with power moves to the basket.

He was just following coach's orders, actually.

"We felt against New Orleans he walked the ball up the floor and he played at a medium pace," explains Rivers, referring to Friday's 94-82 win. "And that allowed them to stop him and him to struggle. Tonight, we just told him every single time we get a rebound, we want you to go at full speed up the floor, and he did that. And I thought his speed, early and in the third quarter, was the difference. It got them in foul trouble, got us early posts, got us some early pick-and-rolls. When we play that way, we're really good."

The coach didn't mention the fourth quarter, but Rondo wasn't bad down the stretch, either. He re-entered the game with 6:15 left, the Celtics, who never trailed in the second half after finding themselves in a 43-43 halftime situation, leading by 9 (83-74). But that was hardly a safe margin, because Jerry Sloan's team is both scrappy and loaded with 3-point shooters.

Rondo's first official act: a steal and sneakaway lay-up (85-76). After narrowly missing a steal out front on Williams, he retreated to rebound an Okur 3-point miss and started a fast break culminating in a Kendrick Perkins power move (94-87). He rebounded a Williams miss - he is, without question the best rebounding 6-foot-1-inch point guard the NBA has seen since Norm Van Lier - at 95-89 and then brought the nightly capacity gathering of 18,624 to its feet with an acrobatic, slashing, right-to-left over-the-shoulder banked flip with his back completely to the basket. That made it 97-89 with 43.6 seconds left, and it was over.

"I don't really practice that shot," he shrugs. "Well, maybe a little."

"Yeah, he worked on it this morning," laughs Rivers. "No, that was terrific. I mean, you know, when he finishes, he's really good. And he puts more English on the ball than Minnesota Fats at times."

"Paul [Pierce] told me never to play that man in H-O-R-S-E and I had to learn the hard way," admits Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds). "He's really good at using the basket, he's really good at using the backboard and really good with the English. He makes it look easy."

Rondo is playing at such a high level that All-Star talk is unavoidable. Four players from one team, even one winning over 90 percent of its games, is a very rare occurrence. But Pierce says the idea has merit.

"There's no reason he shouldn't make the All-Star team," Pierce insists.

"That's a good compliment, coming from the Captain," Rondo says.

Pierce, meanwhile, makes his own stab at a Rondo comparison.

"He can give you a little bit of everything, the way he creates and causes havoc in transition," Pierces points out. "He's like a little Speedy Gonzalez. I don't know what to call him. He's like a blur out there."

I checked the NBA rosters, but I couldn't find any Speedy Gonzalez. He must be in the D-League.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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