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Rondo can't get a passing grade.

Byline: Bill Doyle


Rajon Rondo's plantar fasciitis and sprained left ankle may be to blame. Or it could be that he's worn out from having to play too many minutes while Delonte West was injured and while Nate Robinson struggled before being traded.

While the exact reason may not be known, this much is: Rondo no longer dominates games the way he once did, and the Celtics are suffering because of it.

Entering last night's game at New Orleans, Rondo hadn't reached double figures in assists in any of his last seven games while averaging only 5.6 points and 6.8 assists and shooting 30.2 percent. He also had more turnovers (20) than baskets (19), and it was no coincidence the Celtics lost four of those seven games.

While playing nearly 30 minutes in Wednesday's win over Indiana, Rondo failed to score for the first time since he logged fewer than 10 minutes in the 2008-09 season finale, and he failed to grab a rebound for the first time in a year. He followed that Friday by collecting only 4 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds while making only 2 of 11 shots in a lopsided loss at Houston.

This is the same player who earlier in the season was a nightly threat for a triple-double. This is also the player who dished out an NBA-record 82 assists in his first five games and averaged 14 assists in his first 18 games, threatening to become the first NBA player to average 14 assists for a season since Utah's John Stockton did it in 1990-91.

Back then, plenty of NBA fans would have argued that Rondo was the NBA's top point guard, ahead of Chicago's Derrick Rose. No one is saying that now.

After Friday's loss at Houston, Rondo refused to blame his injuries.

"Everybody's asked me, am I hurt?" Rondo told The Boston Globe. "I'm fine. It's an 82-game season. It's long. Nothing is, I don't think, too serious. We all have aches and pains, but I don't think that it's nothing that's able to keep me out. I'm playing. I'm just not playing well."

Coach Doc Rivers also refuses to blame Rondo's subpar play on his injuries or his extended minutes.

"He's just not playing well," Rivers said Wednesday. "Sometimes there's no reason to why you don't play well. I don't think it's either one of those. I just think he's had a couple bad games and he'll get out of it. Everyone goes through it."

Rivers even went so far as to praise Rondo for his speed in Wednesday's victory, but Kevin Garnett and Danny Ainge admitted that Rondo was playing hurt. Rivers may be reluctant to blame Rondo's slump on his injuries that sidelined him for seven games in December because he wants him to play through them. But plantar fasciitis requires rest - sometimes weeks or even months of it.

Rondo hasn't penetrated and dished lately and he's not going to help the Celtics by taking jump shots. He had made only 4 of 29 shots in his last four games prior to last night.

Rondo has averaged fewer assists with each passing month, from 16.7 in October to 13.3 in November, to 13 in December, 11.1 in January, 10.5 in February and 8.8 in March (so far). His shooting percentage has also dropped each of the last four months, from 58 percent in December to 50 in January, 48.3 in February and 34.1 this month. That looks like fatigue.

Rondo makes the Celtics go. If one of the Big Three has an off-night, the Celts can survive. If Rondo has an off-night, they struggle. In the 41 victories in which he has played, Rondo has averaged 12.4 assists and shot 52.1 percent. In his 15 losses, he has averaged 9.3 assists and shot 39.9 percent. Paul Pierce hasn't shot well lately, so that hurts Rondo's assist numbers, but if Rondo were running the offense more effectively, Pierce would be getting better shots.

Rondo still leads the NBA with 11.6 assists per game, but Steve Nash of Dallas is closing in on him at 11.3. Rondo is also averaging 10.3 points and shooting 48.8 percent, both figures the lowest since his rookie season in 2006-07.

Rondo ranks second to Chris Paul in steals, but overall he is not playing the tough defense he did last season, when he made the All-Defensive first team. Over the last couple of weeks, Rondo has allowed Houston's Kyle Lowery to score 20 points, Mo Williams to score 28 and Brandon Jennings to score 23. None of them rank among the NBA's best point guards.

Rondo is averaging a career-high 37-1/2 minutes, but he should get more of a breather now that West has returned from a sprained ankle and Carlos Arroyo has joined the team. Players go through slumps and bounce back. The Celtics hope that's the case with Rondo, who averaged 14.5 assists in the four games before his recent drop-off.

Auerbach auction set

The same Southern California auctioneer that sold off Bob Cousy's memorabilia in 2003 will now auction Red Auerbach's.

SCP Auctions will conduct the first of three Internet auctions at from April 15 to 30. More of Auerbach's 500 mementos will be auctioned in July and in the fall.

Cousy's auction raised $455,641 for his two daughters. At the time, it was the most money raised by an auction of basketball memorabilia. An SCP official said the three Auerbach auctions should generate more than $500,000 for the family of the late Celtics coach and president.

The most unique item to be auctioned could be Auerbach's cigar humidor from the 1954-55 team, with engraved signatures by the players. Auerbach used to light up cigars late in games after his team had clinched victories.

Other items to be auctioned include Auerbach's 1968 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ring, his first contract to coach the Celtics in 1950 (signed by Auerbach and former team owner Walter Brown), a jersey worn by Cousy during his rookie year in 1950 and his championship rings from 1962, 1974, 1976 and 1981.

Auerbach coached the Celtics to nine NBA championships and 938 victories and served as general manager or president while the team won seven more titles. He died at age 89 on Oct. 28, 2006.

SCP Auctions has taken part in such sports auctions as the record-setting sale of a Honus Wagner baseball card for $2.8 million, Babe Ruth's bat used to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium for $1.265 million, and the private collections of Cousy, Wagner, Wilt Chamberlain, Casey Stengel and Ernie Banks.

Vogel took different route

Would you expect to become an NBA head coach if the closest you came to playing big-time varsity college basketball was to serve as a student manager for two years, if you slaved in the NBA as video coordinator for five years before getting promoted to assistant coach, and if you had never been a head coach at any level?

Well, that's the route Indiana's Frank Vogel took.

After Larry Bird fired Jim O'Brien as the Pacers' head coach Jan. 30, Bird and O'Brien together called Vogel, O'Brien's assistant, to offer him the job. While Vogel felt bad for his mentor, for whom he worked in Boston, Philadelphia and Indiana, he couldn't pass up the job.

"Some guys," Vogel said, "will go 20, 30 years as an assistant in the NBA and never get this opportunity."

Vogel served as student manager under Rick Pitino and O'Brien at Kentucky, then worked a year as a graduate assistant before following them to Boston in 1997 as video coordinator of the Celtics.

"Rick Pitino used to tell me it's the foundation of coaching," Vogel said. "You have to be able to study the game inside and out on the videotape, and all the answers are always on videotape. It's like therapy to me. It keeps me from getting too high, keeps me from getting too low after losses. When you go back to the tape, it all unravels itself like a puzzle. It's been my foundation for getting into coaching."

After serving as O'Brien's assistant for three years in Boston, Vogel followed O'Brien to Philadelphia for the 2004-05 season. Vogel scouted for the Lakers and the Wizards before rejoining O'Brien in Indiana as an assistant coach for the 2007-08 season.

After going 17-27 under O'Brien this season, the Pacers improved to 13-12 under Vogel Friday by doing the Celtics a favor and ending Chicago's eight-game winning streak in overtime despite Rose's 42 points.

Forward Tyler Hansbrough rarely played under O'Brien the past two years, but one of the first things Vogel did as head coach was to inform Hansbrough that he would play 20 to 30 minutes a game.

"You're going to grow," Vogel told Hansbrough. "You're going to make mistakes, but we'll work through those mistakes. We've got to get your comfort level up and when your comfort level gets up, your confidence is going to take off. That's pretty much what happened."

Hansbrough scored only 10 points Wednesday in a loss to the Celtics, but on Friday he scored 29 against the Bulls and earlier in the week, in two games against the Knicks, he scored 29 and a career-high 30.

Vogel doesn't expect his video coordinator, Vance Catlin, to follow him into coaching.

"My video coordinator wants to be a GM," Vogel said.

Bill Doyle can be reached by e-mail at

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 20, 2011
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