One of the most used terms in all of sports is underrated. Applied to anyone that doesn't get enough credit from enough people, it's basically a way of saying, 'This guy is good, you just don't know it.' And for a long while, Rajon Rondo was considered so underrated that he became a household name because of it.
But with what Rondo is doing to the Chicago Bulls, on the national stage of the Celtics' first-round playoff series, you can toss that idea right out the window. Rondo is about to become properly rated.
On the brink of stardom all year and barely missing the cut for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Rondo has taken his game to new heights against Rookie of the Year point guard Derrick Rose. In Game 4 Sunday, Rondo dropped a cool line of 25 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds to bring his series averages to 23, 10 and 10.
Rajon Rondo is raising himself to elite status among NBA point guards.Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty
Just to emphasize, he's averaging a triple double.
"I think [Rondo] is one of the league's great point guards," Paul Pierce said after the Celtics' 118-121 double-overtime loss in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. "He is playing at a high level and we have to keep him going. He is playing MVP caliber basketball. We have to encourage him to keep going."
While Rondo has often appeared to be the best player on the court, for either team, his numbers have not always translated to success for Boston. Sunday, his second triple-double of the playoffs was the Celtics' second loss, bringing them to a 2-2 standstill with the Bulls.
"He was terrific, but we lost the game," Doc Rivers said of his point guard. "He plays with such composure. He may have been the most composed player on the floor. He didn't even come out in the second half. Other than taking out the garbage, I don't know what more he can do."
Despite the loss, Rondo's out-dueling of Rose is in line with his regular season, when he consistently elevated his game to elite status against top competition at his position. He's also proving, with a number of pull-ups and a pair of threes during the series, that the myth about him not having a jumper is bunk. So what more can he do?
Just about the only thing left is to become a top-tier clutch scorer. That's hard to do in the presence of Pierce (29 points) and Ray Allen (28 points), but Sunday, Rondo had his chance. With the Celtics coming out of a timeout at the end of the first overtime and the game tied thanks to a miraculous three by Ben Gordon, Rivers gave the nod to Rondo with four seconds on the clock. The Celtics evacuated the paint and it was just Rondo, at the top of the key with the ball and the game in his hands.
Jumper. No good.
It was a play that was seemingly designed to give Rondo the room to drive and create. But in perhaps his only miscue of the night -- he committed just one turnover after all -- he settled. No chance to get fouled, no chance to follow the shot, just a miss off the side of the rim and on to double-overtime. But it was just a tiny blemish on a nearly perfect night -- sans victory, of course -- that more than earned the third-year guard his respect.
"He's a good point guard," Rose said. "He pushes the ball, good rebounder, scorer. He does everything you need to get done on the court. It's just fun out there when we are playing against one another."
Rondo is giving us performances that people talk about on the streets and at the water coolers of any city. And once that happens, you are no longer underrated.