The Celtics’ X-Factor

The 2006 NBA draft was a mess for the Boston Celtics.

First, the Celtics passed on Brandon Roy, the stud forward out of Washington, who later became Rookie of the Year, a title most anointed him as soon as he was drafted. Then, once the C's drafted Randy Foye, they shipped him off to Portland in a deal that brought them Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff (in a twist of irony, the Blazers then sent Foye to Minnesota in exchange for Roy)

Telfair was supposedly going to be the point guard of the future, but turned out to be an absolute dud in Boston, averaging 6.1 points and 2.8 assists in 78 games. Ratliff was basically included because of his attrative "expiring contract," and played just two games for the C's.

In their second trade of the night, the Celts, knowingly or unknowingly, went out and got themselves a bit of an insurance plan, trading with Phoenix to move back into the first round at pick No. 21, where they drafted Rondo.

Rondo was a standout for Kentucky, but realistically, he only figured to be nothing more than a backup to Telfair or whoever was manning the point for the Green. However, as the '06-'07 season wore on, it became evident that Telfair was simply not right for the job, and after a strong showing off the bench, Rondo was installed as the starter by February and has not let go of the job since.

Rondo, known for his defensive tenacity, has really come into his own this season. Of course, a lot of this can be contributed to the Celts' acquistition of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, forming arguably the best trio basketball has seen since the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale/Robert Parish Celtics of the '80s. However, when you watch the Celtics play, it is clear that Rondo has matured a great deal since last season.

Of course, this process did not happen overnight. At the start of the season, Rondo did look a bit hesitant, which may be a natural thing to happen when you play with three future Hall of Famers, but as the season has worn on, it is evident that someone, whether it was coach Doc Rivers, a teammate, or some outside source, sat him down and let him know that while the three stars would be putting up the points offensively, it did not necessarily mean that Rondo couldn't contribute on the scoreboard, as well.

Rondo has been driving to the basket much more lately, using his quickness to its full capacity. None of these times were more evident than last week, when Rondo drove to the basket during the win against Detriot, and made a highlight-reel dunk on Pistons' forward Jason Maxiell.

Recently, the Celts went out and acquired Sam Cassell, a move that would probably concern most second-year starters, but Rondo has taken it in stride, and has been open about how much he believes Cassell's presence will only help him in the C's stretch run, and possibly put the team over the top in terms of their chances to win an NBA championship.

Rondo, who just turned 22, is one of the youngest players on a veteran-filled Boston team, but has demanded the respect of a guy who has been in the league for 10 years, and his teammates seem all for it. Will it be enough to raise another banner in Boston? That remain to be seen. What is known is that Rajon Rondo has elevated his game from a rookie getting 20 minutes a game to one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference, and giving the Celtics their first legitamate point guard in years.

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