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Celtics @ 7: What To Make Of Rondo's Benchings

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards played 58 minutes of basketball on Monday night, but Rajon Rondo found himself on the bench for the final 27 minutes of the contest.

That's right. Boston's All Star point guard was benched midway through the third quarter and never found his way back to the floor in the Celtics' double-overtime loss.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Rondo has found himself on the bench during a pivotal stretch, as he was also benched for a few minutes in the fourth quarter in Boston's overtime win over Detroit last Wednesday. Rondo was back on the court for overtime in that tilt, but on Monday night, head coach Brad Stevens went with bench players Marcus Smart and Evan Turner, who played important roles as Boston made a dazzling second half comeback (Boston's bench scored 82 points that night, so Rondo wasn't the only starter to ride the pine).

It's certainly an interesting move for the Celtics, who have said throughout all the Rondo trade rumors the last two years that they want him to be part of their future. But at the moment, they're living in the moment. Rondo's offensive deficiencies have reared their ugly head again, especially at the free throw line where he is hitting just 32 percent of his attempts, and it has cost Boston some games this season.

Rondo's recent residency on the Celtics bench was the topic of Tuesday night's "Celtics @ 7" on 98.5 The Sports Hub's The Adam Jones Show, and both Jones and Rich Keefe can't imagine No. 9 is all that pleased with the move, despite him saying all the right things following Monday night's loss.

"What do we make of that? That Stevens is playing the hot hand, or that he's saying 'Know what, maybe we can win without Rondo in crunch time,'" questioned Jones. "Rondo's fourth quarter numbers are terrible; he has the worst plus/minus on the team, lowest field goal percentage on the team, and defensively, he's been a sieve for the last couple of years. I'm OK with the Celtics doing it, but don't tell me Rondo is OK with it.

"All Stars or the best player on a team don't sign off on that," said Jones.

Rich Keefe agrees, especially with Rondo playing for his next contract this season.

"There is no chance that he likes this. It's a contract year for him, and now he's going to be sitting in the fourth quarter? There is no way this is going to sit well with him," said Keefe. "But there is enough of a track record now. They've played 20 games and they've blown a lot of fourth quarter leads. A big part of that has been Rondo. He isn't really helping you defensively anymore, and offensively he plays more tentatively in the fourth quarter."

Keefe and Jones noted that Kyle Korver, one heck of a shooter but not known for possessing many defensive skills, was guarding Rondo in last week's loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

"They dare him to shoot outside and if he gets into the paint he isn't shooting because he doesn't want to go to the free throw line. They don't have as many guys for him to pass to before. He never liked going to the line, but before he had so many guys to go to. Now, they don't have a lot of guys to create their own shots," said Keefe. "How many times in the fourth quarter does he not get inside the three-point line? He sort of passes it around like a kid against the 2-1-2 zone. That's not helping anybody.

"I still think Rondo is the most skilled guy they have, but this year he has looked worse in the fourth quarter," said Keefe. "Maybe it's because of the teammates around him, but he has been a liability. I don't think we would have thought that before. Credit to Stevens; that's tough for him to sit his star player and the guy with the biggest personality on the team."

What does all this mean for the future? Jones thinks the writing is on the wall that the Celtics and Rondo will eventually part ways.

"I think we're seeing hints that the Celtics are looking at the aftermath of the Rajon Rondo era. We said on draft night that Rondo was probably going to be packing his bags… Rondo is not long for Boston when they take Marcus Smart sixth overall," he said. "So maybe this is a minor, minor clue: They sit him down in a key situation against Detroit last week, and now they sit him down for almost a half hour of game time midway through the third quarter, and he never returns. I think that is the Celtics tipping their hand as to where things are heading with Rondo."

Will Rondo be on the bench for the end of Wednesday's Celtics-Bobcats game? Find out on 98.5 The Sports Hub -- the flagship station of the Boston Celtics. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell begin their coverage at 6:30pm!


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