Rajon Rondo is one of the best point guards in the game today, and it’s not because of his jumper. He sees passing lanes like Haley Joel Osment saw dead people in “The Sixth Sense.” Whether it’s his unique visualization of the Euclidean geometry involved in passing the ball for a bucket, or simply a preternatural intuition for what passes will lead to an assist, no one in the game today sees the floor as well as Rondo. Now, the records are starting to reflect that fact.
Rondo set an assist record on Nov. 10, recording his 28th consecutive regular-season game with at least 11 assists when he was awarded — after initially being credited for only 10 assists — 11 dimes against Milwaukee. He broke a record set by John Stockton, one that ended the next night when he had “just” 10 against Chicago. But it’s still impressive what Rondo accomplished considering Stockton recorded the previous high streak of at least 11 dimes in 1991. So, you’re probably wondering, why are we still talking about this? Because there’s a longer, more significant record in his grasp, and the Celtics’ game against Detroit brought it to a head.
First, here’s Rondo’s last assist against Detroit when the Celtics were down by almost 20 points.
Rondo’s pass to Jared Sullinger with less than a minute remaining gave him his 10th assist and allowed him to continue to chase one of the oldest records in the NBA. A record that almost goes back to the very beginning of the contemporary game, back before David Stern was even commissioner.
There’s something more satisfyingly whole about achieving 10 assists in a game. It’s a solid, round number, and it often signifies a player’s excellence in a specific component of basketball. Whether it’s 10 rebounds or 10 assists, we typically highlight a player achieving double figures in either of those categories for an extended period of time. Whether it’s triple-doubles, or double-doubles, basketball fans associate double figures in rebounds or assists with excellence. Rondo has recorded at least 10 assists 34 consecutive times in the regular season stretching from last season into this year’s first month. He’s rapidly approaching a new consecutive games streak, but this one is older and stretches back until the early 1980s.
Between the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons, Stockton recorded 10 assists in 37 consecutive games. He’s also done it in stretches of 29 and 27 consecutive games also; in terms of consecutive games with at least 10 assists, Stockton is the standard. Since the 2000-2001 season, two-time MVP Steve Nash had a string of 14 games with double-figure assists. Chris Paul, perhaps the top point guard in the game today, has had 12 consecutive games with 10 assists or more. Besides Nash and Paul, and a couple streaks for former point guard and current Warriors coach, Mark Jackson, few have achieved 10 dimes for 10 straight games. As we’ve mentioned, Rondo is in the midst of 34 consecutive games with at least 10 assists, but it’s not Stockton’s record he’s trying to reach. We have to go even further back into the annals of the NBA record book to even find the consecutive games streak with at least 10 assists.
Maybe you were like me as you’re reading this, and you’ve been left wondering where the greatest point guard in history falls in this discussion of consecutive games streaks. We’re glad you asked. Magic Johnson has the official record for consecutive regular-season games with at least 10 assists, doing it in 46 games in 1983-84. It’s the record, and one that hasn’t been approached in the ensuing three decades. Well, until now. You may have noticed that we’ve been using Basketball Reference’s game logs and player streak finder to assess the various streaks of consecutive games with at least 10 assists. Johnson’s record goes back so far the database doesn’t even have the full game logs from Johnson’s historic, record-setting season. But Johnson does have the record, unless Rondo can continue his robotic stretch moving forward.
If Rondo achieves 10 assists in his next three games, he’ll tie Stockton’s 20 year-old mark. If Rondo passes for at least 10 assists in his next 12 games (the last one is on Dec. 15, at San Antonio on NBA TV), he’ll tie Johnson’s almost 30 year-old record. If Rondo passes for at least 10 assists in his next 13 games–the game after San Antonio, the Celtics will face Chicago’s prickly defense–he’ll have the new consecutive games streak, and he’ll find himself in some pretty exclusive company. Maybe Rondo’s last assist against Detroit was a little fishy because coach Doc Rivers kept him in long after the game was decided, but he’s chasing history of two of the greatest point guards of all time. We’re pretty sure we know why Rondo wants to be talked about in the same breath as Magic and Stockton. It’s just a question of whether he can keep this up. The next time you’re thinking of turning the channel during a blowout game featuring the Celtics, check the box score, and remember what we’re in the middle of witnessing something very special and even more rare.
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @countcenci.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.