Rondo gets wish, lands All-Star spot
Injury to Hawk opens up a spot
OKLAHOMA CITY - Doc Rivers yesterday confirmed what Rajon Rondo has been keeping to himself the past two weeks. Rivers said Rondo was bothered by being left off the All-Star team, and it led to a noticeable increase in his production and perhaps his two-game suspension.
On his 26th birthday, and while serving the second game of his two-game suspension last night while his teammates faced the Thunder, Rondo learned that he had been added to the Eastern Conference roster, replacing Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who has a sore left knee.
Rondo, who missed eight games with a sprained right wrist, is averaging a career-high 14.8 points with 9.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds. He collected his ninth regular-season triple double Feb. 12 against the Bulls and has been the Celtics’ most consistent player this season.
But when the All-Star rosters were announced Feb. 9, New Jersey’s Deron Williams was chosen as a reserve instead.
Rondo responded with 5 points, 7 assists, and 5 turnovers in a bizarre performance Feb. 10 against the Raptors. After the game, he said he wasn’t bothered by the omission, but his pain was apparent to Rivers.
“He clearly thought he should have made it, and so did we, but the injury, honestly, he was just injured at the wrong time,’’ said Rivers. “Right when people were voting. It’s good that he’s on it.
“I think it bothered him. He came back and we were rolling, so I think that drove him to want to play better than who was on the team.’’
In the Celtics’ 96-81 loss to the Pistons Sunday, Rondo was suspended by the NBA for throwing a ball at official Sean Wright. He left the team after learning of the suspension in Dallas Monday but changed his vacation plans when informed that he may be a candidate to replace Johnson.
This will be Rondo’s third consecutive All-Star appearance and perhaps a validation that he is one of the league’s top point guards.
“That’s great,’’ said Rivers. “He deserves it. He’s having a hell of a birthday.’’
Hole at center
Last night, the Celtics were without big men Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal, who returned to Boston for further examination of their injuries. Wilcox left Monday’s loss to the Mavericks with a strained right groin muscle, and O’Neal left with a sprained left wrist.
Rivers began the game with two available centers - Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma - and if Garnett is used as a center, it robs the Celtics of a power forward.
Mickael Pietrus got the start last night, moving Garnett to center. Pietrus finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in nearly 44 minutes.
If the Celtics are without O’Neal and Wilcox for an extended period, Rivers said they will seek a big man on the market. The most attractive candidate, Joel Przybilla, just committed to play for the Trail Blazers, so the Celtics may be relegated to looking in the NBADL.
“It’s pointing that way for sure,’’ Rivers said. “I think we’ll find out more once Chris and JO get back, but the way they’ve been injured so much, we may need to get one anyway.’’
For Avery Bradley it was an opportunity to face a top point guard, one with whom he shares similarities, Russell Westbrook. The league was uncertain Westbrook was capable of playing point guard when he entered the league four years ago and was considered more of an athlete. He has developed into a two-time All-Star, but Bradley had his share of moments last night. He blocked three shots, all against Westbrook, and also scored 12 points, including two streaking dunks. “He was terrific, Avery was absolutely wonderful,’’ Rivers said. “Avery and Mickael Pietrus, if you are on the other team, that’s no picnic for you.’’ . . . Rivers said he’s never seen a player like Kevin Durant in the NBA. He described him as “George Gervin but 5 inches taller.’’ . . . Nick Collison was not available for Oklahoma City because of a left quadriceps contusion . . . The Celtics’ bench was outscored 31-9.