Rajon Rondo averaged 7.8 points this season. He averaged 4.5 points in four meetings with the Boston Celtics.
And none of that will mean a darn thing at 6:30 p.m. Sunday when the ball is tossed into the air at TD Garden to begin the first-round playoff series between the Celtics and Chicago Bulls.
“Oh, he’ll be ready,” said Avery Bradley with a grin of expectation born of experience. “He’ll be ready for us.”
Rondo on national television is a cut above his general best. Rondo on national television in the playoffs is something even more than that.
Rondo on national television in the playoffs against the Celtics could break the Richter scale.
This is a guy who was well on his way to having his number hanging over the parquet before injuries, Celtics rebuilding and an unwillingness to meet his price when he was to become a free agent got him traded to Dallas in December 2014.
Since then it’s been a tour of one-season stands. Dallas, Sacramento, now Chicago, where he started just 42 of the 69 games in which he’s appeared.
But no one around the Celtics is crazy enough to think Rondo isn’t capable of going crazy against them.
He’s averaged 9.4 points since he defended his younger teammates – and, to a degree, himself – after Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler ripped them.
He averaged 15 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.8 assists in the four-game winning streak that pulled the Bulls back from the edge of playoff extinction two weeks ago.
“He’s had a great second half of this season,” said Celtics Coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a big reason why they’re where they are. And you know that he’s going to be looking forward to playing in the postseason. There’s no doubt. He’s always been good in the postseason.”
Stevens had just 52 games over two seasons with Rondo, easing him back into the rotation after ACL surgery and hanging in with him as the trade winds finally blew him to Texas.
Rondo, it was said around the team and league, had some attitude issues. But one part of his attitude is a mean streak that raises his game to brilliance when that emotion is focused on the opponent.
“He’s really competitive,” Stevens said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s a competitive guy. He’s one of a couple of guys on that team that have been there, done that in the playoffs. That’s why we’re going to have to be really good.”
It remains to be seen how the Bulls will set their defensive scheme against the Celtics, but it is with great anticipation that we await the sight of Rondo seeking to deal with Isaiah Thomas.
There wasn’t much dealing by any of the Bulls the last time they were here. On March 12, they looked like a team that had quit on themselves, on basketball and on life in general. They trailed by as many as 29 in a 100-80 loss.
Thomas had his 22 points in just 24 minutes, and Rondo came off the bench, played 19 minutes and went 1 of 5 from the floor.
“But statistically, if you look over the past few years, he shoots the ball well here,” Bradley said. “I mean, anything’s possible with Rondo.”
Speaking earlier of going against his former teammate, Bradley said, “It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere for both teams. It’s weird playing against him on the other side but playoff time is when he really brings it. It should be a fun series.”
Rondo, meanwhile, has been saying essentially the same thing in Chicago.
“I mean, it’s going to be crazy,” he said of heading to Boston for the playoffs. “The fans are one of the best I’ve ever seen, especially at this time of the year. We’ve got to be ready. It’s still going to be basketball at the end of the day, but we have to play a game with minimum mistakes, and go out there and see what we can do.”
As for matching up with Thomas, Rondo had high praise.
“He’s probably playing the best out of any point guard, as far as scoring the ball, and his team is winning,” Rondo said. “Between him and Kyrie (Irving), you take your pick.”
In this case, familiarity could breed a far more interesting series than your average 1 vs. 8 matchup.
Bradley, for one, won’t have to renew acquaintances.
“He’s my brother,” he said of Rondo. “He came to my wedding and everything. That’s my brother. That team will always be family – Marquis (Daniels), Chris Wilcox, KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce). That was a close group.”
Starting Sunday, the Celtics and Rondo will be too close for comfort. Perfect.