I like being proven right. So right now I’m liking Paul Pierce, who did his part last night to prove me right for ranking him the NBA’s 3rd-best go-to guy, ahead of crowd favorites LeBron and Carmelo. But lost in the beauty that was a vintage Truth performance was the fact that Pierce was only finishing what Rajon Rondo started.
You see, in the first quarter of Celtics/Cavs, Boston was getting blasted. Cleveland couldn’t miss: Anderson Varejao was hitting fadeaweays, Anthony Parker was dropping step-back threes with a man in his face, and LeBron was sticking 30-footers like they were free throws. At one point, Boston was down 13-2, then 19-5; by all rights it looked like Opening Night was going to be one for blowouts.
Then Rondo got involved. As if putting a notary public stamp on the “I’m not a role player anymore” statement he made in the ’09 playoffs, and getting this year’s “Somebody better pay me” campaign out of the blocks, Rondo was the spark that got Boston’s offense out of bed. Midway through the quarter he scored on two straight possessions, then assisted Pierce on a three, then set up Kevin Garnett for an easy layup, then dimed Rasheed for another three. All of a sudden, it was a ballgame, Boston had some momentum, and would eventually grab the lead in the second quarter on their way to a win.
If all you saw were the highlights — where Rondo was most notable for getting his dunk attempt assassinated by LeBron — you wouldn’t have realized his impact on the game. If you only saw the box score, where he put up a modest eight points, 10 assists, six boards and three steals, you might have missed it as well. But if you were watching, you saw just how important Rondo is to the Celtics. Pierce is still the most valuable player, Garnett is the emotional heart and soul, Ray Allen is like the big-play receiver in crunch time, and Rasheed will lead the second unit. But Rondo is the firestarter.
Danny Ainge was watching. The day after it was reported that talks between Ainge and Rondo’s agent on a contract extension had stalled, today it’s being reported that they’re back on. Maybe it wasn’t just because of last night’s performance, but it couldn’t have hurt.
It reminds me of the Danny Granger deal last year. Going into opening night, the Pacers hadn’t yet reached an agreement on an extension for their future franchise player. Granger went out and dropped 33 points on the Pistons in the opener, and next thing you know, he’s putting his signature on a deal worth more than $50 million.
With these extension talks taking place in the offseason, when so much is based on perception and recent memories, sometimes you can buy into your own arguments against paying out a large amount of money. And sometimes it takes a dose of reality in the form of a real game to remind you why the asking price is so high in the first place.