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Sunday night was a milestone for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, and it wasn’t because he once again dominated the floor like he did before his ACL injury.
Sure, Rondo put on a show against the Detroit Pistons by racking up 18 (!) assists to go along with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, and ZERO turnovers. But the real milestone was Rondo passing the legendary Bill Russell to move into fifth place in franchise history on the all-time assists list.
Some may scoff that Russell was a center, making it easy pickings for Rondo, the point guard with the ball always in hand, to pass him in assists. But Russell was an exceptional passer for his position, averaging over four assists per game for the last eight years of his career, including nearly six assists in the 1966-67 season. Besides, as Rondo himself acknowledged, Russell is not only an all-time great in franchise history, but in NBA history as well:
“Anytime you pass up arguably the best Celtic of all time [and] your name is mentioned in the same breath as him, it’s definitely an honor and a compliment,” Rondo said. “He wasn’t a point guard, but he played here [13 seasons]. To get on the same list and to pass him up is definitely an honor.”
Russell aside, Rondo now occupies a top-five place in assists for one of the most decorated franchises in NBA history with some of the most iconic players in NBA history. Rondo now trails only Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, and Paul Pierce in franchise assists, three of whom have their jerseys retired in the rafters (with a spot for Pierce’s #34 already reserved). Oh, and Rondo is only 28 years old, in just his seventh year in the league. Not to bow down at the Altar of Rondo, but if that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.
Yes, of course it helped setting up three surefire first-ballot Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. But he also missed significant time with his ACL injury, and has been stuck with some pretty mediocre talent both before the Big Three trade and this year. I mean, the man tallied 18 assists by setting up Kris Humphries — KRIS HUMPHRIES! — for 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. I think that evens things out rather nicely, don’t you?
It remains to be seen how much farther Rondo can climb that list — he sits just 200-odd assists behind Pierce for fourth place in franchise history, over 1,500 behind Larry Bird for third — if only because his future with the Celtics is still up in the air.
At least for now, though, Celtics fans can bask in Rondo’s return to vintage form, in which he dominated the pace and flow of Sunday’s game against Detroit like the Rondo of old. Let’s hope for more night’s like Sunday when he uses his court vision and creativity to make a wraparound bounce pass into an impossibly tight window. Lord knows we Celtics fans could use some more highlights to brighten this otherwise miserable season.