2018 NBA Playoffs: New Orleans Pelicans are ready for healthy contributions from Playoff Rajon Rondo

Regular-season Rajon Rondo has long divided fan bases, but playoff Rondo has been universally praised for being such a key difference maker.

It goes without saying that Rondo is one of the best passers in NBA history, but he is sort of a pariah in terms of his greatness. Sure, you can find a litany of highlights showing off slick moves, big shots, defensive gems and mesmerizing passes — such as his signature fake behind the back pass.

Hey, we’ve been witness to this creativity first hand.

On the flip side, Rondo has long been criticized for greedy decision-making, lack of defensive intensity, non-existent effort and poor attitude…throughout regular seasons that is. NBA fans and analysts alike feel that when April rolls around Rondo seems to flip a switch, flaunting his god-given ability when games matter most.

Perhaps being a key piece on an NBA championship winning team in just his second season taught him when to put forth his best foot, but are fans right to trust that he will flip some sort of internal switch and become the Rondo of yesteryear?

You bet. We saw plenty of flashes to close out the 2017-18 campaign, helping New Orleans reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. Just ask a few of his opponents during the final week of the season.

Origins

The 2007-08 Boston Celtics were a true powerhouse, featuring the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and a youngster named Rajon Rondo. Expectations ran high the summer before after the group was brought together via several massive trades, yet Head Coach Doc Rivers and General Manage Danny Ainge handed the keys to a feisty 21-year-old point guard.

The acclaimed Fantastic Four did not disappoint, as they won the NBA Finals in their first season together. Pierce may have led the charge over the Los Angeles Lakers in the scoring column, but second-year-man Rondo averaged 10.2 PPG, 6.6 APG and 1.7 SPG in the playoffs, including a stellar title-clinching game 6 where he put up 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals. With a ring placed on his finger, it seemed that Rondo knew from that day forward to show out when the lights are at their brightest.

Present

Last year at this time, we saw Rondo raise his postseason exploits to another level. In the first round of the 2017 playoffs, he led the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls to a 2-0 series lead over the top-seeded Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, the world was deprived of a conclusion to that story as a right thumb fracture and the Bulls bowing out after four straight losses put an end to that dream.

Well, Rondo is back in the playoffs and this time he’ll be seeking to work his magic on behalf of the Pelicans. Can Superman don his cape once more?

Rondo has likely already made the transition to a postseason mindset. The Pelicans faced a must-win scenario in their season finale versus the San Antonio Spurs in order to avoid a playoff matchup against either the Rockets or Warriors. All the New Orleans point guard did was drop an impressive line of 19 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and four steals. Two days earlier, he hung a 12-point, 17-assist and 2-steal effort on Golden State.

If history is any indicator, we should be able to count on more stellar performances from him here on out. For his postseason career, Rondo is averaging 14.4 PPG, 9.1 APG, 6.0 RPG and 2.0 SPG. Those stellar numbers are not a fluke, having come from a long 96-game sample size!

Rondo’s play is no doubt going to be crucial for the Pelicans in their matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. The dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will stand opposite starting tonight, and while Jrue Holiday is a fantastic counter, he’ll still require plenty of help.

The time is now for Rajon Rondo to assert himself on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights and help propel the Pelicans towards what might hopefully soon be regarded as the franchise’s most memorable playoff experience.



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