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Rondology: Once And Future King?

Posted by paul on February 13, 2013 at 4:30 AM

It's hard to believe that Bob Ryan was once a shining sign of hope that real journalism could actually exist in sports.  Most sports 'journalists' should really be thought of as extensions of the publicity departments of the teams they cover.  With that in mind, it's hard to believe that there once was a time when Bob Ryan had the journalistic spine to stand up to Red Auerbach.  Admittedly, that was long ago, but it's still sad to see that he has fallen to the level of Felger and Mazz as a sports clown.  Here is his latest anti-Rondo screed:


What's so disturbing here isn't that Ryan suggests that Rondo can be too self-centered in his game, despite the fact that loves passing the ball (a seeming paradox, of course);  I would argue that Rondo fans have been saying this for a long time, that Rondo needs to spend less time pounding the ball on offense, and more time actually attacking the defense, whether by dribbling, penetrating, passing the ball, moving without the ball, or whatever.   Ryan also suggests that Rondo ought to stop asserting that he is the best point guard, and start actually being it.  I think Rondo fans can agree with that one as well.  If you are going to talk the walk, you had better walk the walk.   That's one reason why Rondo's no-show against Chris Paul in the game where the Clippers blew out the Celtics was so disheartening.  When it comes to specific points, Rondo fans can generally agree with Haters like Ryan, I think.  

The problem with Ryan, of course, and with other Haters,  is that their strident anti-Rondo rants are so over-the-top and so onesided.  For example, when was the last time that a Hater cited the revived play of the post-Rondo Celtics, and then pointed out the opposite side of the coin?  If the team is playing better with Rondo gone, doesn't that mean they played less well before he went out, and don't they then bear some responsibility for the poor overall performance of the team?  Any fair-minded observer would surely point that out, wouldn't they?   And wouldn't a fair-minded observer, when criticizing Rondo for dominating the ball too much, also point out that the Celtics players knew what they were signing on for?  They knew what kind of pg Rondo was.  Has any Hater pointed out this elementary fact?  Of course not.  It would instantly blow up the negative picture of Rondo that they are trying to paint.

One can go on and on with this.  The only way Haters can demonize Rondo the way they do is to create a crazily one-sided portrayal.  I keep thinking about Rondo's assist streak, and about the way this became the focus of the screeching attacks on Rondo in the media and blogs, to the point where there seemed to be a kind of celebration when Rondo's streak came to an end in the infamous Humphries push down Nets game.  You could tell, I think, that many folks in the media felt like they had triumphed.  Yeah.  Over a 26-year-old kid, Bob Ryan and his ilk rose up triumphant.  They had taken that damned streak and shoved it in that miserable kid's face, that kid who refused to treat them with the veneration they so deserve.  Well, they showed him their power, didn't they?  They showed him that they could control how watever he did was percieved, and that perception is reality.  They even had Doc talking down the streak.  

What they didn't tell us, and don't ever remind us now, is that the Celtics' record even after that Nets loss was 8-7.


In other words, the Celtics had a much better record when Rondo was on his streak than they did when he wasn't (prior to Rondo going down),  and this was even though the Cs had been struggling through the first part of the season.   Another interesting thing they don't tell us, when they rant about Rondo's obsession with his stats, is that he came one rebound short of a triple double in the win just preceding the Nets loss.  He did that several times this season.  But, considering the way Rondo's supposed mad obsession with assists has been demonized, isn't it amazing to think that the Cs had a winning record while he was on his streak this season?  And yet the media seemed to celebrate the end of the streak as though they had just won the superbowl.

Sick, isn't it?

I think Rondo's fans are more aware than anyone that, even though Rondo took some big steps forward this season, as he always does, he fell on his face overall.  I think Rondo's fans will often be the first to point out that some of the eccentricities of Rondo's game began to overwhelm his overall game this season, and the result was disastrous for him and for the team.  I think Rondo fans will be the most passionate, by far, in asserting that he needs to spend a lot of time and effort during this forced career setback on rethinking his game.  

What does Rondo need to change?   Most of the Haters are eager to point out that Rondo dominates the ball too much.   I don' t think this is the real problem.  Great players, generally speaking, need to have the ball in their hands.  Rondo is a great player.  The problem is that Rondo spends far too much time handling the ball and not really doing much with it.   I love to cite the Clippers blowout as an examplar.  In that game, Rondo and Paul seemed to handle the ball about the same amount.   The difference was that most of the time that Rondo had the ball, he was just killing shotclock.  Most of the time Paul had the ball in his hands, he was pushing it up the floor, probing the defense, working from side to side, and making plays.  I don't mind Rondo handling the ball a lot.  I don't mind that at all.  I think he's by far our best player.   I think it would work out fine for Rondo to dominate the ball if he made sure that he was accomplishing something for his team's offense at all times.  As soon as you find you are just holding the ball as the shot clock winds down, it's past time to put it in someone else's hands.

This is an example of a place where a Rondo eccentricity has become a major problem with his game.   At one time, maybe holding the ball had a lot to do with giving the old guys a chance to rest, waiting on Ray Allen, controlling the pace and, finally, lulling the opposing defense.  Now it's a habit that has eaten up Rondo's overall game.

Criticism can go on from there, of course.   Rondo doesn't penetrate enough.   Our offense clearly depends on the energy it gets from one of the best penetrators the game has ever seen attacking the basket.  We need to have that more consistently.  Also, Rondo doesn't move without the ball enough, and all too often, he's not ready for return passes.  How many times has Rondo thrown a great pass to someone, only to have them toss it back to Rondo, and he bobbles it?  Can't he see what they see?   As soon as Rondo passes the ball, the opposing D relaxes.  That's a great time for Rondo to get the ball right back and make a move.

But it's not all up to Rondo.  His teammates have to run the floor.  They have to cut, and move without the ball themselves, and they have to hit gimme spot up shots.  It's hard to blame Rondo for Lee and Terry clanging wide open threes and such, and doing it consistently.  Teammates who were brought in as shooters do actually have some responsibility to shoot well.  The pg can't always throw the pass AND take the shot.

I don't mind if Rondo dominates the ball less.  What is most important is that folks not just hold the ball, or even pass pointlessly, but that  they constantly look to break down the opposing defense, with their dribbling, passing, and with their moving off the ball.   And none of this is all on Rondo, though a lot of it is on him.

Defense is another area where what once was a Rondo eccentricity has become a major problem.   The Haters seem to claim that Rondo is simply a lazy azz on defense, who likes to gamble for steals to pad his stats.    That is such crap.   Rondo's gambling can be incredibly disruptive to opposing offenses, and I would say that most of the time it results in deflections that end up being steals for OTHER players, padding THEIR stats.  I actually wouldn't mind Rondo gambling more for steals, and I also don't mind when he plays matador defense, as long as it's not just a habit.  In the game that the Cs won against the Nets, for example, Rondo and KG did a nice job of sandwiching Deron Williams as I recall.  Rondo would let Williams slip past, KG would corrall him while Rondo crept up from behind to swipe at the ball.   There is a fairly brilliant method to Rondo's defensive madness.  The problem is that it has become a habit precisely as the changing personnel on the team should have caused Rondo to do it LESS, not more.  Also, Rondo began to see his matador defense as a way to save energy on the defensive end.   

Again, an eccentricity that originally actually made some sense became a habit that began to destroy Rondo's game.  He's really got to shed some of these habits and get back to some basketball basics.  

Can the Celtics erstwhile leader come back and lead the team again, despite his crushing downfall?  Well, if CSNNE's report is right, Rondo is already trying to maintain some degree of leadership with the team by cheerleading during its current streak.  That's good.  IF he makes a real point of correcting some of the bad habits that have started to eat up his game, and  IF his teammates own up to their responsibility for the disaster that happened during the first half of this season, there could be a bright future for Rondo as a Celtics leader.   There's a long road ahead, but not an impossible one.

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Reply Kevin
11:38 AM on February 13, 2013 
Good write up.. The mocking of Rondo,and the over the top crap just doesn't do anything for me.
Reply Franklin
11:41 AM on February 13, 2013 
I agree the way he acts is just too much. He attacks Rondo the person more so than his game. The video where he mocks Rondo about being the best point guard. I'm sorry that this isn't the 80s Bob.
Reply Celticslifer
4:40 PM on February 13, 2013 
Rondo had a bad defensive season. When it was playoff time I wasn't worried about it. But during the season it could have won a few games for the Celtics.
Reply paul
9:07 PM on February 13, 2013 
Kevin says...
Good write up.. The mocking of Rondo,and the over the top crap just doesn't do anything for me.

Nice to see Heinsohn is sticking up for Rondo.

"Tommy Heinsohn ‏@CSNTommy
To those who say the C's are better w/o Rondo: "Bothers me...People don't understand, this kid's as fierce a competitor as you'll find.""
Reply paul
9:13 PM on February 13, 2013 
Franklin says...
I agree the way he acts is just too much. He attacks Rondo the person more so than his game. The video where he mocks Rondo about being the best point guard. I'm sorry that this isn't the 80s Bob.

He makes a good point, in that Rondo has to back up those words, not just say them. But yeah, he was out and out mocking Rondo. Rondo not worship you enough, Bob?

Ainge had a nice comment:
"DannyAinge on Rondo: "No one's happier about the success & aggressive play of the C's than Rondo is. I hope they keep it up when he returns""

I love that he puts the pressure on Rondo's teammates to play hard when he returns.
Reply paul
9:17 PM on February 13, 2013 
Celticslifer says...
Rondo had a bad defensive season. When it was playoff time I wasn't worried about it. But during the season it could have won a few games for the Celtics.

I think his defense has actually deteriorated to the point where it has become a serious problem. I really hope Rondo sees this.