The right dose of Rondo

Boston's Big Three follows its point guard, but moderation matters

Originally Published: April 17, 2012
By Neil Paine | Basketball Reference
Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Doc RiversBarry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo directs the Celts, but the offense actually suffers.

When the Boston Celtics traveled to play their sixth-to-last game of the regular season on Saturday, they left Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett behind in New York, where the pair would wait to rejoin the team for Tuesday night's game against the Knicks.

What's so notable about that, you ask? Well, neither future Hall of Famer was especially injured (other than the typical aches and pains associated with veterans in their mid-30s -- Pierce was nursing a jammed left big toe, for instance), Boston is still neck-and-neck with the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks for the fourth seed in the East (meaning home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs) and the team's backup situations at small forward and center heavily feature such flotsam as Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma and Sasha Pavlovic.

Then again, the opponents were the miserable Charlotte Bobcats. And the Celtics did go on to win by 12 behind Rajon Rondo's 20-point, 16-assist effort.

Some of that underscores how awful Charlotte has been this season, but it also says a lot about the level of trust Doc Rivers and the Celtics organization have in Rondo. Over his five seasons playing alongside the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen, Rondo has gone from being an erratic 21-year-old -- considered by many to be the weak link in Boston's championship-level lineup prior to the 2008 season -- to the team's unquestioned floor general. This transformation has led Rondo to be widely recognized as one of the best pure point guards in the NBA.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.