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It was his impatience that marked him lousy at Kentucky, where he bridled at the restrictions in Tubby Smith's offense to the point where Rondo got his starting spot taken away for six games. He got a rep for being stubborn, much of which he deserved, and which also erupted again as he and Celtics coach Doc Rivers got to know each other. Fortunately for both men, Rivers was once a young point guard himself. Like Rondo, he came onto a veteran team that already had an established star in Dominique Wilkins. Rivers had then-coach Mike Fratello in his ear from the first day of rookie camp. Ultimately, that shared experience has been the basis of the confidence that has grown between the two of them, even though Rivers seems congenitally incapable of using Rondo's first name.
Under Rivers' guidance, Rondo has become the most unstoppable point guard in the NBA and, in the postseason, very likely the best one. The only one still with an argument is Steve Nash in Phoenix, and Nash has proved himself completely incapable of guarding Rondo at all. There will be people who will argue for New Orleans' Chris Paul, who shoots better, and Utah's Deron Williams, who is bigger and stronger, but neither of them have done what Rondo has done when games truly begin to count.
Rondo will need to be at his best against the Magic, who are younger and quicker and more athletic than the Cavaliers, and who have more defenders to throw at him. In evaluating the Celtics' chances, it's that rebounding number against Cleveland that makes all the difference. That's something that no guard of his size should be able to do, and it is the best indicator of his ability to shake up the momentum of a game or a series. In many ways, all of them unexpected, this championship is his to win, because he's the variable on an aging team. If he's very lucky, Skip Bayless won't notice that for a while.