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Rondo Returns To Form, Leads Way In Celtics Opening Night Win

BOSTON (CBS) -- He's back.

Rajon Rondo is still not 100 percent after breaking a broken bone in his left hand five weeks ago, but he didn't need to be in Boston's 121-105 season opening win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Deemed good to go about 90 minutes ahead of game time, Rondo slipped a wrap on his hand and went to work.

The end result: 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. It was vintage Rondo as he flirted with his 20th career triple double in the victory, leading the fast-paced Celtics down the floor and setting up teammates for easy scores.

"He looks like himself," said head coach Brad Stevens. "He kind of looks like what I saw on film before I got here. I don't think he ever looked like that at any time last year. But he is back to full speed and it's really good to see."

"I felt about 91 percent tonight," the star point guard deadpanned after the game.

Rondo spent the early parts of the week assigning percentages to himself. First it was 79 percent on Monday, and then 83 percent on Tuesday. He was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks when he first broke his hand at the end of September, the product of a slip in the shower.

But Rondo worked hard while sidelined and stayed in shape without participating in contact drills. This followed an offseason where Rondo was determined to return to his old self after missing most of last season while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in 2013.

"Rondo has worked really hard to get himself back," Celtics president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge told Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning. "He has a lot to prove this year; not to solidify how good he is but just to show everybody that he is one of the elite point guards in the game. He wants to get back into that echelon of point guards, and people sort of forgot about him because last year he played coming off the knee injury, and wasn't who he was. It was encouraging to see Rajon last night... He played with great intensity."

"It was just fun being back out there. I missed the game," said Rondo. "This is what I've been doing my entire life. It's just great to be back out there playing basketball again."

There were no real signs of either injury on Wednesday, with Rondo taking over for long stretches of the contest. He played the role of facilitator in the first half, dishing out nine assists by halftime, and then got his shot going in the second half. He scored nine straight for Boston at one point in the third quarter, capped off with a straight away three-pointer he banked in over Brooklyn center Jerome Jordan.

"I called bank on that three," he said after the game. "KG gave me a little grief about that."

After spending six seasons together, Garnett and Rondo are like brothers and still remain close. While he was upset his Nets lost, KG was happy to see Rondo return to form.

"Rondo was classic," said Garnett. "I don't know what he said, he was 89, 83 percent? That's a hell of an 83 percent. He played well, and he led his team to a win tonight."

Rondo may have led the way, but it was a full team effort for Boston. They had incredible ball movement leading to open shots, and they made the most of them by shooting better than 60 percent for most of the game (they finished 55 percent from the field). All five of Boston's starters finished with double digits, and three more players off the bench chipped in with 10 points. The defense was swarming, leading to 20 Brooklyn turnovers, including four by rookie Marcus Smart in his NBA debut.

But as will be the case this season, it all starts with Rondo.

"It just made everyone feel a lot more comfortable," said Avery Bradley, happy to have his backcourt mate back in the fold. "He's our leader and he came out and played amazing. It was like he didn't skip a beat, like he almost hasn't been off at all. He played great tonight and it motivates everybody."

"It's huge," said forward Kelly Olynyk, who led Boston with 19 points. "You have a leader that's commanding guys, telling them where to go, and just making the game easier for other people and that's what it boils down to. If you can make the game easier for other people and make your teammates look good then everything works together."

"Everybody was ready to play," Rondo said of his teammates. "The guys stepped up. We're a tough team to scout when we have seven or eight guys in double figures."

With Rondo dishing out passes like the old Rondo, that's something that could happen on a nightly basis with these Celtics.


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