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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Lakers recognizing Rondo's abilities

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It's easy to remember the aftermath of what happened in Boston the last time the Lakers met the Celtics in the Finals and lost Game 6 by an embarrassing 39 points.

Green and white confetti rained down from the rafters.

Doc Rivers received a red Gatorade shower.

Ray Allen and the rest of the Celtics gathered together to cry, "Ubuntu!"

Paul Pierce lifted up the Finals MVP trophy.

Kevin Garnett screamed, "Anything is possible!"

Ron Artest visited the Lakers locker room to see Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant and commiserate about their loss.

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics shoots against the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

What doesn't quite stick out as vividly is Rajon Rondo's ridiculous performance in the series-clinching win and how it came out of nowhere: 21 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, six steals, all coming from a second-year point guard who was just 22 years old at the time. He struggled in Games 3-5, averaging just 5.3 points and 3.0 assists after scoring 15 points in Game 1 and dishing 16 dimes in Game 2.

Rondo has only blossomed since then, making his first All-Star appearance in February and being named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2009 and First Team in 2010.

The 6-foot-1 guard with the 6-9 wingspan has been incredible in this year's postseason, averaging 16.7 points, 10.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

Still, all of his numbers didn't add up to any special attention being paid to him by the Lakers at practice Tuesday.

"We look at them as a team," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We don't look at them as individuals, like, 'We got to stop Rondo, we got to stop Garnett,' or whatever. We look at the individuals and the strengths they have and how they're used and say we have to limit whatever their strengths are in whatever possible way we can."

Jackson said that the Lakers have four players they will put on Rondo at times: Bryant, Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar.

Even though Boston's "Big Three" have been transformed to the "Big Four" thanks to Rondo's emergence, Jackson believes that Rondo still falls further down in the pecking order in a controlled game and only feeds individually when there is a little chaos involved.

"If we turn the ball over, or if he gets rebounds, he's going to score in transition," Jackson said. "That's what he does. He's great at that. If we make a lot of mistakes, he's going to score more. Or if he gets a lot rebounds ... If they're in a set offense and they're playing half court, then it's going to be Allen and Garnett and Pierce, etc. [Game 6 in 2008] particularly was a ragged game and there were a lot of things happening that fed into what he can do really well and he did it. That's the kind of things that happen in these ballgames. It's not about an individual that we're going to try and stop."

Bryant, who did not have great success guarding Rondo on Jan. 31 in Boston when the Lakers eked out a one-point victory on a Bryant game-winner that barely silenced Rondo's 21 points, 12 assists and five rebounds wouldn't talk about the Lakers defensive plans for the dynamic guard.

"I don't know yet," Bryant said.

Jackson said that Bryant, who sometimes will guard an opposing team's small forward or point guard instead of just being matched up with whoever is playing shooting guard, will spend time guarding a variety of Celtics.

"Kobe will be on Pierce, he'll be on Rondo, he'll be on Allen, they'll have Tony Allen in the game, he'll be on Tony Allen," Jackson said.

The other marquee matchup

While the team was coy about the possibility of seeing KB vs. RR, a Ron Ron vs. PP showdown seems inevitable.

Artest is going to get his chance to pull the plug on Pierce's offensive production.

"Pierce is obviously going to be on-ball," Jackson said. "And so, that's going to create more Ron on-ball [defense] type of activity against an offensive player. So there will be more focus there."

Pierce leads the Celtics in scoring in the playoffs with a 19.1 points per game average and is shooting 39 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

Artest hyped the matchup in a way only he can, comparing it to a big-time fight in boxing.

"He has a championship," Artest said. "He's been there a couple years already, and he's been in big games, and he's hit a lot of big shots. I'll let other people compare it, compare him. It depends on what people want. Do you want a Floyd Mayweather fight? Or do you want a Manny Pacquiao fight? It depends on what you want?

Artest was then asked which boxer Pierce would be.

"I don't know what fighter he would be," Artest said. "I'm just saying it depends on what type of fighter the fan wants. Who you want? You want entertainment and Manny Pacquiao, you want to see 41-0, basic boxing and Floyd Mayweather."

Earlier Jackson summed up the changes in the Lakers roster between 2008 and today, and sounded a little like fight promoter Don King in doing so, weaving in a lyrical rhyme.

"We're not as quick, we don't have the speed, but we do have a little more brawn ... and Ron," Jackson said.

They said it

"I don't think we're going to watch the [Bob] Cousy matchups with Jerry West but we may look at something along the way." -- Jackson on whether the Lakers will watch any film this week from any of the previous 11 Finals matchups between Boston and L.A.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.