Remember when the Rajon Rondo signing by the New Orleans Pelicans was met with a lot more jeers and tears than cheers a little over five months ago?
Based on a steady decline of statistics and performances and the myriad of stories that painted the once revered member of the most recent Championship Celtics roster in a bad light, the overwhelming vast majority chalked up more cataclysmic events ahead and believed the Pelicans would be the latest team to regret taking the plunge on the well-traveled point guard.
Rajon Rondo has been nothing short of a good citizen, a great teammate, the pass-first floor general Alvin Gentry has longed for in New Orleans, and tonight, ‘Do was at the center of the Pelicans happiest win of the season: a 128-113 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t let the final score deceive you. New Orleans was ahead by 33 points in the third quarter and were up by 27 following Rondo’s final assist of the night with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
Soon after he established a new career high and set a new franchise record for assists in game with 25 — thanks to a 10-foot jumper by Cheick Diallo, he was swarmed by teammates on the bench and then given a much needed Gatorade shower moments later.
25 assists ✔️— NBA (@NBA) December 28, 2017
Franchise-high ✔️ pic.twitter.com/JgJeoXY4V8
The good times continued in the locker room. Jrue Holiday sung Rondo’s praises to the media, while Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins made sure to drop some well-intentioned jabs as they playfully mocked the 25-assist performance.
“I mean it was cool,” uttered an initially stolid Boogie. “It was cool. Solid. He did his job. When you got a guy like AD (Anthony Davis) and myself, why wouldn’t you pass it? But nah, I had a previous stint with him in Sacramento and I thought I’d seen some of his best performances and even his days with the Celtics, but just to watch him come out here and do this tonight with, basically ease, it is just a testimony to his talent.”
This New Orleans team loves Rajon Rondo and for good reason — he is the key to unlocking their full potential. Case in point, have a look at the box score against the Nets: Davis scored 33 points, Cousins, 27, Holiday, 23, and E’Twaun Moore, 20. Steady point production from the lead guard position is far from a requirement. Rather, it’s all about getting the surrounding gifted offensive players the basketball in their wheelhouses and keeping the team’s energy up. No one understands this better than Rondo.
“Well, the number one thing is we got the win and, then me personally, I love passing the ball,” said Rajon Rondo in postgame. “I think when everyone touches the ball, it gives you energy and life on defense. So, that’s why I’m a big believer in getting everybody touches and giving everybody a little energy on both ends of the floor.”
For those of you who have followed the Pelicans closely understand a dominant yet incredibly intelligent floor general is precisely what this core needs. Davis has always thrived best when others can initiate the offense and find him in his sweet spots. Holiday’s best role is functioning as an aggressive scorer without the responsibility of getting others involved. Cousins is an ultra competitive player who at times can be his own worst enemy, so it’s vital he plays next to someone whom he deeply respects and trusts to facilitate most of the offense and control the game.
Rajon Rondo is that guy, but in addition to his on-the-court contributions, he also fulfills a lot of demands off of it. Leadership is something the Pelicans have struggled with throughout AD’s career. What it takes to be a winner in this league. Knowing when to pick your battles. And above all else, the importance of working on one’s game, one’s conditioning and all the other necessary preparation required each and every day.
Rondo has walked the walk, won at the highest of levels and knows what it takes to be a successful professional in the most demanding of environments. And tonight, he was decidedly a little more special than usual.
Thank you for that — the ride was an unforgettable blast.
- In addition to Rondo’s recording-setting performance, the New Orleans Pelicans also established a new record for assists in a game with 40 dimes, beating their old mark of 38 assists that occurred back on March 8, 2010 against the Golden State Warriors.
- Anthony Davis notched his usual double-double, but his overall line sparkled because of the high block and three-point totals: 33 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and four threes. He made good on all four of his long-range attempts and those four made triples matched a career high.
- DeMarcus Cousins scored 27 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and added another charge. Boogie has now taken 17 charges, trailing only Kyle Lowry (19).
- Jrue Holiday topped the 20-point plateau for the 7th time this month and added three triples, two steals and two blocks. His December averages of 22.2 points, 2.5 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks have simply been max contract worthy, eh?
- E’Twaun Moore has been the sharpest of shooters this month and tonight was yet another great example: 20 points on 8-11 from the field and 4-5 from three-point range. For December, E’Twine is shooting 59.2% from the field and 60% from three-point range. #NothingButNet
- Ian Clark made an impact in his second straight game, contributing 11 points on 4-6 from the field and 3-5 from deep. If this becomes commonplace, wow, what a huge bonus for a bench that has largely been able to rely on only Darius Miller for most of the season.
- For as well as the core played, it was mildly discouraging to see most of the bench prove ineffective. In just three minutes of action, Omer Asik had a -17 plus/minus. The combination of he and Diallo were completely incompetent, failing to stop the Nets while unable to help the Pelicans add any points to the scoreboard. Jameer Nelson also failed to do anything notable in 12 minutes of playing time, continuing a troubling theme here in December.
Up next, the New Orleans Pelicans will welcome the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Despite sitting in the cellar of the Western Conference, the Mavs have won two straight games over a couple of playoff-caliber teams: the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers. If there’s one thing we’ve learned with a Rick Carlisle team, one should never take them for granted.