Walton: Celtics fortunes rest on Rondo

Posted Dec. 14, 2012, at 8:58 p.m.

Bill Walton, as a connoisseur of all things involving the Celtics, naturally watches the current edition as much as possible.

And after the team’s slow start — 12-9 with last night’s double OT win over the Mavs — the Hall of Famer has drawn two conclusions:

• One, there shouldn’t be a lot of worrying about either the Celtics or Lakers, who have started at an even worse pace than their cross-country rival.

• Two, the Celtics will go as far as Rajon Rondo can take them. Not exactly news, perhaps, but Walton has also attached a qualifier to his opinion.

“Rondo can be the best point guard in the league,” said Walton, who took in Wednesday’s game after speaking at a spinal fusion seminar during the day. “I think he’s also capable of being the best player in the league. Nothing was a lock with Miami last year, and he nearly made the difference last year.

“The Celtics are going to be fine, because it’s early, and the NBA is all about having the best players. They have a great coach in Doc Rivers, and they also have Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. But now the challenge is on Rajon Rondo to be that player. They need him to come out as the best player every night. When I was playing, that player was Larry Bird.

“I’m a huge Rondo fan. He’s a classic Celtic, because the game isn’t about stats to him. But to be an MVP-type player you have to do it every night.”

Carlisle: A case of Jet-lag

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, asked if he misses Jason Terry, replied with the old joke about a bear’s natural habits in the woods.

As the Celtics are discovering, Terry’s credentials as a clutch player are essentially beyond reproach. Along with former teammate Dirk Nowitzki, he may have been the greatest player in Mavericks history in that regard.

“Well, you look at the (stats) of fourth-quarter production in the history of the league, Jet’s going to rank up there with some of the best that have ever played in terms of average points in the fourth, shooting percentage, important shots, all those things,” Carlisle said. “He and Dirk were as good of a big-small tandem as I’ve seen in recent years. You go back to (Karl) Malone-(John) Stockton, yeah. There’s a pair that’s in the same conversation.

“He used to get into the fourth quarter, and it was like a switch would go on and it would be time for him to kick it in. It wasn’t just scoring. He’d kick it in defensively, playmaking, the whole thing. He’s a very, very unique player. He’s one of the best players in the history of this league never to be an All-Star. He’s an All-Star caliber player, no doubt about that.”

O’Brien’s impact recalled

A relaxed Jim O’Brien has fit in nicely on Carlisle’s staff. As a former Celtics player, Carlisle wanted to make sure that O’Brien’s contributions as Rivers’ predecessor in Boston aren’t forgotten.

“He was one of the guys who had great impact on (the Celtics) reemerging back in the early 2000s,” Carlisle said. “That team with Pierce and (Antoine) Walker really broke through. That was huge for this organization. He’s had a great impact on Boston sports, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“I’ve known Jim for over 25 years. When I went to the Knicks, he was a first-year assistant under Rick Pitino. At that time, I remember he had such a great intellectual curiosity for the game, a great love and respect for the game. When (Terry) Stotts got the Portland job, he was the only guy I really thought about. I knew I’d have to sell him pretty hard on coming off the golf course. He’s got plenty of money. He doesn’t need to do this, but he’s been great.” …

NOTES: The Celtics sent Fab Melo back to the Maine Red Claws yesterday, only a day after activating him. The moves were a technicality. Melo had to be activated in order to be treated for a strained quadriceps by the Celtics medical staff.

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