|Posted by paul on February 8, 2013 at 6:40 AM|
Leave it to KG.
I criticized KG the other day for saying that Pierce was always understood to be the Celtics' leader, even though KG had repeatedly asserted, in the not-too-distant past, that the team followed Rondo's lead. Perhaps KG was leaning on semantics a little. His literal words were that 'this was always understood to be Pierce's team', or something like that, so maybe he was relying on shades of meaning. I think he was being a bit shady.
So I was pleased and impressed that KG stepped up last night, and became (to my knowledge) the first guy to acknowledge that the team should have played better while Rondo was still here:
Scott Souza @scott_souza (twitter)
#Celtics Kevin Garnett: when you have a Rajon Rondo, who does everything you get lackadaisical, like if someone's always cooking for you.
I think there was actually more to it than that, KG. I think you are right when it comes to your game, that you relied on Rondo to the point where you became less aggressive than we really needed you to be, but I think some of the other guys came very close to out-and-out refusing to adjust their games to play with Rondo, despite loud protestations that they admired Rondo and looked forward to his leadership. We all know that Rondo ended up controlling the ball too much, considering how little he accomplished with it, relative to how much he controlled it, but was that all his fault? I think it was a Rondo tendency that became more extreme as Rondo was left to feel more and more like he had to carry the team almost by himself (which I think in turn led to his injury). Guys were bricking wide open shots. Guys weren't hustling, weren't moving without the ball, weren't running the floor, weren't active on D. When asked to pass the ball around, they often did it sluggishly and without purpose. Again, I'm not claiming that Rondo had no fault in what happened this year. Around here, we've been talking about the problems with Rondo's D, and the way he slows the ball down on Offense, for longer than most of the Haters, probably. I'm just thrilled to see KG begin to acknowledge openly that it can't have been, and really wasn't, all Rondo's fault.
Watching Nash last night, I was reminded of Rondo. Early in the game, he tried to stay in the flow of the offense, but Bryant was invisible, and Howard was acting the clown - I'm sorry, Rondo gets raked over the coals for his free throw shooting, but at least he tries - and as the game began to slip away from the Lakers, Nash began dominating the ball, trying to break down the Cs' defense, attacking the basket, trying to make clever passes, etc.. Bryant, meanwhile, also began trying harder, but that meant going into his iso mode, ala Paul Pierce. The worse things got, the more Nash dominated the ball, dribbling endlessly at times, looking for something, anything. He ended up making passes that got picked off, and wild shots that didn't quite go in. So, blame it all on Nash?
I'll repeat what I've said before. I think the basic conflict on this team has long been between Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, not between Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. People see the superficial gaps, and what they don't see is that there is a deeper fissure causing them, or exacerbating them. I think the difference between the almost crazily bad way Pierce was playing before Rondo went down, and the intense, focused way he is playing now, might be the most extreme change on the team, even if his stats were great before. I think that the big weakness of the eighties' Celtics was that Mchale and Parrish never really quite learned how to play off each other. They ended up basically taking turns. I see the basic problem with the recent Celtics being that Pierce and Rondo have never quite learned how to play off each other. I think that other players come into this situation, sense the tension between Rondo and Pierce, and see space for their own egos. Problems ensue and grown.
I suppose it doesn't matter. The team is playing great now. They may even be playing championship level basketball. Who cares if it took the subtraction of Rondo to get there? Now Pierce is the undisputed leader, the room for other egos to cause further splits and cracks has disappeared, and voila... now we see the deep, active, talented team we thought we'd see.
I'm sure KG wouldn't agree with any of my 'analysis', but it just was nice to see him recognize that the team should have been playing this hard and this together and this urgently when Rondo was still around.
One of Celtics Blog's Head Haiters reports that not only might Rondo return earlier than expected, but sources report that he has learned the error of his ways and no longer wants to obsess over his assists:
To give credit where credit is due, at least this Hater has the habit of holding out the pining hope that Rondo might learn the error of his ways. Most Haters don't even allow for that possiblity, I'd say. It hardly matters though, since such expressions of hope almost invariably amount to demanding that Rondo stop being Rondo, while blaming everything on him. True to form, this writer doesn't allow for the slightest hint that maybe Rondo's teammates need to learn some lessons too, and that maybe they played some role in the trainwreck that the first half of the season turned into.
I doubt if Rondo will be back any time soon. I'd love to see him come back, of course, provided he is really healthy, and provided he really does learn the error of his ways, but I'd also have to believe that the team would have learned the error of its ways, and so far, I see no sign of that whatsoever, apart from KG's comment last night. Frankly, the team generally seems absolutely thrilled that Rondo is gone, and shows virtually no sign of remorse for the way they played earlier in the season, nor any awareness that, by playing so badly earlier, they may have contributed to the problems in Rondo's play, and to his injury, or that they had any responsibility to make things work before. Some of the comments, such as Bass appearing to blame Rondo for his difficulties this year, have been egregious.
So basically, the best empathy for Rondo that the best of the Haters can manage is the hope that he will crawl back on his knees like the Prodigal Son, only not so proudly.
And then there's Bob Ryan. Apparently Bob Ryan has made it official, declaring that Rondo's assists prove his selfishness. Oh these are heady times for Haters. Well here's what I think, Bob. I think Rajon Rondo is one of the most talented players I have ever seen. He may be the most talented. I think he fell into some very bad habits, and SO DID HIS TEAMMATES AND HIS COACH (kudos again to KG for beginning to acknowledge this). Blaming Rondo alone may be the simplest solution; just get rid of Rondo and you've gotten rid of the problem. But you've also gotten rid of a tremendous talent that the Celtics and the game need.
So I wonder if we could consider not dumping all the blame on one guy? I know it's a crazy idea, but how about it?
When you see the way Rondo loves passing the ball, the way he defends his teammates, the way he dives to the floor after loose balls, the way he tries to rise to the occasion when the team is struggling, I don't see how anyone can in good conscience claim that Rondo's heart isn't in the right place. And does anyone think that KG would be so close to a guy who was as selfish as so many claim? But the bottom line for me, in a sense, is that I just don't think you can be someone who throws some of the beautiful passes Rondo throws if you don't love team ball. They call it flash, showing off, razzle-dazzle. Their hearts must be blind.