Commentary

Rajon Rondo rises above chatter

With his name resurfacing in trade rumors, Celtics guard on top of his game

Updated: March 1, 2012, 10:41 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo produced his third triple-double of the season in Wednesday's 102-96 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks, but it was a single-digit number that might have pleased him the most.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jennings
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireRajon Rondo took particular pride in shutting down Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, who was scoreless until the closing minutes.

Rondo, a two-time All-Defensive first-teamer who's struggled at that end of the floor at times this season, aided the Celtics in limiting Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings to a mere six points on 2-of-11 shooting, the only points coming on back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 91 seconds of play.

Meanwhile, Rondo finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to fuel the Celtics to rare triple-digit production, converting 7-of-13 shots, mostly layups on strong drives to the rim.

While Rondo admitted to "focusing on the point guard matchup" because Jennings "is the guy that makes their team go," he offered a bit of self-deprecating humor when asked if trying to hold Jennings scoreless was a goal by the end of the game.

"There's nights when you don't hit a bucket -- obviously, that was last night for me," quipped Rondo, who went scoreless (albeit with 11 assists) in a turnover-plagued effort in Cleveland on Tuesday. He said his focus Wednesday was simply on staying in front of Jennings, who entered averaging 18.2 points per game.

But Rondo couldn't help but blame himself for Jennings' late burst that saw Milwaukee whittle a 15-point deficit to two over the final three minutes.

"I think one of the turnovers was mine when he hit a 3," Rondo said. "I've got to go back, watch a little film and get better."

Better? Good luck trying.

On a night his name resurfaced in trade rumors -- ESPN's Chris Broussard cited sources in reporting that the Celtics are aggressively trying to trade the sixth-year guard -- Rondo seemed more concerned about correcting a minor lapse than his future.

The Celtics media relations staff kept his postgame Q&A with reporters brief, little more than 2½ minutes, ensuring the focus stayed on Wednesday's game and not the latest spin through the trade winds that will only pick up Thursday, when players signed this past offseason can be traded.

Rondo already has been down this road this season, his name at the center of preseason trade chatter as the Celtics tried to pry Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stressed he was open with Rondo during the process and said he never shopped him, that his name came up only because Ainge had a chance to land one of the league's elite players.

With seemingly every member of the Celtics' Big Four involved in one rumor or another this season, players don't seem to be the least bit fazed by the increasing chatter. As they found out earlier this season, one surefire way to get everyone to stop talking about trades is simply to win games.

Thanks in large part to Rondo's effort Wednesday, the Celtics won their second in a row to start the second half of the season, pulling back to .500 at 17-17.

When Rondo, fresh off a two-game suspension and his third All-Star visit, got down on himself for some careless turnovers in Cleveland, Rivers put in Avery Bradley and suggested players had to find ways to grind through nights when they struggle. As he's done all season when his lapses are singled out, Rondo responded with a solid all-around effort against Milwaukee.

"[Rondo] just kept calling different sets and we ran our stuff to score instead of just trying to play out of random and figure it out," Rivers said. "I thought that's what we did in the first half, and even though we had 50 points, it was almost happenstance.

"In the second half, [Rondo] called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that's who we were, and that's who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo's doing."

Rondo notched his 16th career triple-double, 10 of which have come in the regular season, including two earlier this year. But his defense might have been as inspired as we've seen it in recent games.

Said captain Paul Pierce: "On both ends of the court, Rondo played tremendous. He did a great job of shutting down Brandon Jennings, and he's out there getting rebounds, doing things, making passes -- he made us a tough team to beat."

And efforts like this make him a tough player to trade because Boston continues to thrive when Rondo plays his best all-around ball.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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