For years, even as he masqueraded between the NBA’s best passer and a subsequent weirdo off the court, we heard the Celtics’ were Rajon Rondo‘s team. In a sense, we were right: they go as he goes, and during the playoffs – when the chips are most valuable – Rondo perennially turned in near-ESPN Classic performances. But did Boston follow his lead in the locker room? Did he have the presence to outweigh Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? It’s hard to say much has changed just by watching the preseason, where Rondo spent parts of last night throwing three or four wayward one-handed passes straight out of Jason Garrett‘s playbook. But according to everyone around the team, everyone writing about the team, and everyone playing on the team, he’s changed. Former Celtic Keyon Dooling calls him the most underappreciated leader in the NBA, and Rondo’s recently spent time organizing team workouts and meet-ups all while keeping tabs on the younger guys (like Avery Bradley). That’s great news for Boston, which needs him more than ever before. He’s the difference-maker against Miami, if there is one for the Celtics … Rondo had 11 assists in 35 minutes during Brooklyn’s come-from-behind 97-96 win in Boston, and he was also involved in the play of the night: he whipped out an INSANE cross-court bounce pass, hitting Pierce in stride. The Truth then unleashed a behind-the-back dime to Jared Sullinger, who stepped right into a 18-footer and drilled it. But it was Pierce who stole the show. He spearheaded a 10-1 second quarter run with back-to-back triples from the same spot near the top of the key… the second one coming from somewhere in Connecticut. Tommy Heinsohn, already in midseason, red-faced form, serenaded everyone with “WHO’S GOT PAUL PIERCE!!!” … “I’M PAUL PIERCE!!!” The Truth finished with 29 points in 26 minutes, but even his playoff-worthy performance couldn’t stop an eventual collapse by the Celtics’ scrubs … The Nets rested their top six players, but all that didn’t matter because they have the immortal Andray Blatche. Okay, that’s going a little overboard even though the big man finished with 23 points and nine boards. But there’s something about facing KG that just brings out the “man” in Blatche. He was active immediately, pulling out Dream ball fakes, spin moves, wraparound passes, and while his start left much to be desired (missed two layups and had an ugly turnover), he eventually turned it around … The Magic took one to the chin in Detroit last night, getting dropped by 26. But at least they can say this: DeQuan Jones (22 points) and Gustavo Ayon (19 points, 10 rebounds) look like players. Jones even had a ridiculous one-handed putdown on Andre Drummond‘s face that lit a fire under the Orlando Magic bench … In other preseason action: Kevin Love had a typical 24 and eight in a blowout win over Maccabi Haifa, but Brandon Roy (19 points) looked especially spry in Minnesota, while Utah obliterated the Lakers by 34 despite 23 third-quarter points from Kobe (31 in the game) … And apparently, the Pelicans is one of the front runners for the possible name change for the New Orleans Hornets (an old city baseball team was named the Pelicans). We’re not feeling it at all, but it can’t get much worse than the “Spirit” can it? … Keep reading to hear about Nate Robinson’s big night …
As long as he’s in the NBA, Nate Robinson will always have one of the hardest on-court sneaker games in the league. Last night, he did the Chicago Xs proud by blowing up for 24 points and 13 dimes as Chicago held down their homecourt advantage against Milwaukee, 100-94. Filling in for Kirk Hinrich, Nate did it all: hitting a 35-foot buzzer-beater to end a quarter, throwing an off-the-glass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler on the break, and even lighting up Brandon Jennings for 10 points and six assists in the first quarter alone … Andy Rautins (20 points) led Oklahoma City to a 120-98 thumping of the Charlotte Also-Rans, and while that was surprising, what was probably most exciting for the Thunder was Perry Jones‘ night. He was 8-for-10 from the floor for 17 points, four boards and five dimes. If the Baylor underachiever can give them anything this year, he can be that floor stretcher, that four man who can help them play more small ball, which is quite obviously their best lineup … There are a lot of Midwesterners waiting on what feels like the inevitable breakout for Paul George. At times last year, he looked a little like a 20-year-old Tracy McGrady, and even though he probably won’t ever statistically reach superstar status – at least in Indiana just because of the way they play as far as spreading out minutes and the wealth – one of the league’s most athletic players needs to take a step forward this year so that the team can follow suit. In Indiana’s 102-98 win over the Hawks, the 6-9 pogo stick filled out the box score with 20 points (11-for-11 from the line), eight boards, four dimes, three combined steals and blocks, and one nasty alley-oop finish where he nearly hit his cranium on the rim. It was a good all-around night for the Pacers’ top players. As a team, they finished with 13 blocks, and Roy Hibbert had six of them (as well as 16 points and 11 rebounds) … And so far during the preseason, between O.J. Mayo‘s ugly struggles (before he finally broke out in their last game), and Dirk Nowitzki‘s bum knee, Dallas can’t be happy with how they look. When a decaying Vince Carter is playing like one of your best guys, it’s time to reevaluate the program. Now, ESPNDallas.com is reporting Delonte West is suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team,” which in this case was a locker room outburst during their recent big win over Houston. No word yet on what exactly that was, but considering West’s history and his bipolar disorder, it could be just about anything from an argument about playing time (West played just 16 minutes) to a wet willy … We’re out like the Pelicans.
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