Rondo yesterday was suspended one game without pay by the National Basketball Association, his second punishment this season for his conduct toward an official.
“Rondo is an emotional player,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters yesterday before the suspension was announced. “You know the old saying, ‘I would rather kindle a fire than start one.’ I like his fire and sometimes he burns you. I like the fire that he has.”
The Celtics trail 1-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series. Now they’ll have to play Game 2 without the player who led the NBA this season with an average of 11.7 assists per game.
Rondo, 26, was suspended for two games in February for throwing a ball at an official.
“He is a fighter for his team,” Rivers said. “You didn’t want him to go that far, obviously. It’s just who he is. It’s also what makes him great. It’s that fine line that you have to walk and every once in a while, he crosses it.”
Rondo was ejected following an altercation with a referee in the closing minute of the series opener two days ago, an 83- 74 loss to the Hawks. The suspension was announced yesterday in an e-mailed release from NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson.
With 41 seconds remaining in Game 1, Rondo objected to a foul that referee Marc Davis called on Boston forward Brandon Bass. Rondo yelled at the official, and bumped into Davis’s back.
Rondo left with 20 points, 11 assists and four steals. He told reporters that, while he was upset about the call, the contact with Davis was unintentional.
“As I was walking, I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him,” Rondo said. “I didn’t intentionally chest bump him, but that’s what it appears to be.”
The Celtics have advanced past the first round of the playoffs in every year since Rondo’s second season in 2008, when the team won its most recent NBA title. The guard is averaging 13.9 points, 8.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds in 74 career playoff games.
“We have a hard and fast rule,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told ESPN radio before the announcement of the suspension. “Unless someone trips you and sends you into him, you don’t touch a referee.”
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