PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PG RAJON RONDO
SG RAY ALLEN*
SF PAUL PIERCE
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:G Eddie House*, F James Posey*, F-C Scot Pollard*, G Tony Allen, F BrianScalabrine *New acquisition
Record: 24-58(15th in East) Points scored: 95.8 (22nd in NBA) Points allowed: 99.2 (18th)Coach: Doc Rivers (fourth season with Celtics)
Last october,point guard Rajon Rondo entered his first training camp as an unheralded rookiescratching for minutes on a team panned as one of the worst in the conference.One year later Rondo is being handed the keys to a championship contender."It's definitely a different feeling," says Rondo, with considerableunderstatement.
While theattention this off-season has deservedly focused on the acquisitions ofAll-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and on how they will coexist with Bostonmainstay Paul Pierce, Rondo's ability to effectively run the offense will be acrucial element if the Celtics are to make a title run. "He's going to haveto play 40¬†minutes a night," says an Eastern Conference scout."They don't have anyone behind him."
Of course, Rondostill has to prove he deserves all those minutes. Last season he was anoffensive liability, shooting 41.8% from the field and an anemic 20.7% fromthree-point range. Teams would regularly abandon him on the perimeter and darehim to beat them. In hopes of remedying that deficiency, over the summer Rondocommitted himself to making at least 250 jumpers a day, and in scrimmages hewould pass up penetration opportunities in favor of jump shots. He also workedwith Pistons center Nazr Mohammed, a fellow Kentucky product, on thepick-and-pop, a play he figures to run frequently with Garnett. "I have tobe able to keep my man honest," says Rondo.
But he believeshis main duty is to ensure that the ball is distributed evenly to Boston's newBig Three--and in the right spots. During the preseason Rondo developed a feelfor where Garnett ("left block," says Rondo), Pierce ("highpost") and Allen ("anywhere off a screen") like to catch the ball."I can handle it," says Rondo. "I've been a point guard for a longtime now. I know how to run a team."
ENEMY LINES Anopposing team's scout sizes up the Celtics
As much aseveryone wants to award everything to the Celtics after their big summer, Ihave some doubts. Is Ray Allen healthy enough to play 82 games? You could askthe same thing about Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The point guard situationraises more questions. Then there are the big men: They'll have to put Garnettat center sometimes because Scot Pollard can't back up Kendrick Perkins there.. . . The trade for Garnett changed the whole outlook of the franchise. He's aplayer who can carry a team, and he'll be more the glue than Pierce ever wasand Allen ever will be. If something happens to Garnett, then they'll be thesame as they were last year, because Pierce and Allen can't get it done alone.. . . James Posey has close to a 7-footer's wingspan, and that length isbothersome. They'll be counting on him a lot as a defender. . . . It's obviousthat Doc Rivers watches a lot of games. You might see somebody run somethingone night, and then Rivers will be running it a few nights later.
Four-timerebounding champion Kevin Garnett grabbed 900 or more boards in each of hislast eight seasons with the Timberwolves. No Celtic has exceeded that figuresince Robert Parish had 996 in 1989-90.
STARTING LINEUP: BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (2); WALTER IOOSS JR. (3)
STEVE BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DRIVER'S ED Rondo must exhibit sure hands at the wheel of the Boston attack.