BOSTON -- One hour and 45 minutes before game time, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens finally made it official by announcing Rajon Rondo would play in his team's season opener after all. Stevens then was asked how Rondo's presence would alter the game plan.
"It doesn't change anything," Stevens said.
Ah, Coach, we disagree.
Everything changed once No. 9 padded his left hand, slipped on a sleek black sleeve and commenced his assault on the Brooklyn Nets.
Actually, the Nets were merely a prop. The assault was as much against those who think Rondo is no longer an elite point guard, who think he is injury prone, a divo (the Italian word for a male diva) or a mercenary playing for a contract.
Some (or all) of those things may be true, but the Celtics don't care. They are a different team when Rondo is distributing the ball and pushing tempo and imposing his will on the game.
See Rondo hit Kelly Olynyk with a textbook pass in transition. See Rondo fire a bounce pass to Tyler Zeller on the block for a slam. See Rondo decimate the Nets with a series of high pick-and-roll plays, including utilizing an Olynyk screen in the fourth quarter to rise up, appear as if he is about to drill a 14-footer, then hit a cutting Avery Bradley for a layup instead.
"Did you see how he picked that defense apart?" said a giddy Evan Turner, who had played only limited minutes alongside Rondo in preseason as he recovered from his broken hand. "He was unbelievable. He brings our team to a different level."
If you are looking for tangible reasons the Celtics annihilated Brooklyn 121-105 in the season opener, Boston's tenacious defense is a legitimate place to start. But if you are wondering how the Celtics, who normally are offense-challenged, were able to shoot better than 61 percent for a huge portion of this game, pin 101 points on Brooklyn through three quarters and waltz away with eight of their 10 players in double figures, then go talk to the point guard.
"I felt about 91 percent tonight," Rondo deadpanned.
His current and former teammates felt that was more than enough.
"Rondo was classic," lauded Kevin Garnett, who still looks miscast in a Nets uniform. "I don't know what he said he was, 89, 83 percent? That's a hell of an 83 percent."