|Posted on November 18, 2011 at 4:55 AM|
As he enters the sixth year of his career, Rajon Rondo is already a Celtic legend. Bob Cousy has given Rondo his enthusiastic blessing as heir apparent. Satch Sanders has compared him to Bill Russell. KG dubbed him a 'future best point guard in the league'. Shaquille O'Neal describes him as 'frustrating', according to Jackie Macmullen, via Green Street ...
"Shaq said he was really interested in [Rajon] Rondo. Said Rondo was always a topic of convos. Very stubborn and won’t change.
Vets told Shaq how important but frustrating Rondo was. Vets liked when Rondo would get put in his place b/c he ticked them off at times.
Shaq did say Rondo earned the respect of the Big 3 by his defense and passing. Rondo and Doc had “respectful beefs” over plays/decisions."
Of course, Shaq's comments only confirm what everyone already knew. Rajon Rondo enters his sixth NBA year as a combination Seabiscuit/Cinderella story. He came into the league 21st in the draft and lightly regarded. He has established himself as an all star, as a young player who can more than hold his own on a team loaded with future HOF players, as arguably the key player on arguably the best team in the NBA over the past four seasons, as an enigma, whose lows are as impressive as his highs.
As Rondo prepares to enter his sixth, and possibly defining, NBA season, he has become a kind of rorschalk test for fans. Many fans like their basketball quantified, defined and no-nonsense. Such fans see in Rondo a talented but fatally flawed player, whose outrageous inability to knock down a simple 'J' has been compensated for by the extraordinary scoring abilities of the players around him, and whose mercurial mentality has been protected by strong veteran leadership. To such fans, Rondo seems to be a glorified role player whose weaknesses will be starkly revealed all too soon. They cry out for Rondo to be traded while he is still over-valued on the 'market'. For such fans, Rondo's most revealing career moment was his reaction to The Perkins Trade. The loss of Perkins seemed to send Rondo into a month-long funk, which the famously stubborn Rondo appeared unwilling to set aside, to the point where he even drew a rare public rebuke from current Celtic Yoda, Kevin Garnett.
But, of course, not all fans think this way. Many fans love the human side of sports. We recognize that Celtics Pride was defined, from athletic generation to athletic generation, by a series of players who defied expectations, who changed the game in some way, who were independent-minded and stubborn enough to be enigmas to some, but who ultimately inspired more than frustrated, because their love for the game of basketball, and their vision for what it could be outweighed their stubborn-ness. Bob Cousy's razzle-dazzle camouflaged a fierce competitor. Bill Russell did everything - but score - better than anyone. Dave Cowens insisted that determination and hustle were more important than height. Larry Bird saw that the true heart of basketball was in the in-between. KG and Paul Pierce blended their talents for leadership on defense and leadership on offense. None of these guys were supposed to accomplish what they did. Cousy was supposedly too flashy. Russell was too limited. Cowens was too short. Bird was too slow. Pierce and KG were head cases. There was a time when Bird almost washed out of college ball. Russell was too political. Cowens opted for cab driving. KG was unstable and Pierce was selfish. It's easy to forget, in retrospect, that they had to write their stories with their hearts, and only in retrospect has it become a sure thing.
Will the shards of greatness in Rajon Rondo come together? We all know some of what has to happen. Rondo has to become a more assertive leader, while also being more flexible. He has to play more consistently, while still finding a way to be Mr. Invisible. He has to score more and shoot better. I personally insist that he needs to develop a hook shot. Without a doubt, there are many challenges ahead for this kid. But let's not forget that many challenges lie behind him too. No one can know the future, and only Rajon Rondo knows what is in his heart, but what we have seen from him before gives us confidence. There is a real fire in Rajon Rondo.
Like Celtic Greats before him, Rajon Rondo is a highly emotional player, who is also a highly intelligent player. It has been easy for some fans to dismiss the significance of The Trade, but how could Rondo do so? Other fans seemed to understand the implications of The Trade; it's absurd to think that Rondo would have failed to feel them and see them. The Trade was awful on so many levels. We've talked about many of them here, but the most important one becomes more evident and more ugly with each passing day of the The Lockout: Kendrick Perkins was cut out and sent away by Danny Ainge at the behest of the Celtics ownership to send a very powerful HardBall message to the players from the owners. It was NOT a basketball decision.
I respect Rondo's funk. What it says to me is that he saw what was going on, that he had a hard time reacting to it. That means that he is aware, involved, and emotionally invested. I respect all that.
Over the summer, Rondo has been characteristically low-key and laconic, but the growing impression is that he is more than ready to step up as a leader and as a player for the Celtics. I don't deny that many questions remain for Rondo to answer. This is to be expected. But he looks and sounds like a guy who has some answers.
And I refuse to see this season as a lost Celtics season, because I refuse to associate the Celtics strictly with the administrative entity owned by Wyc, etc., run by Danny Ainge, and fronted by Doc Rivers. I associate the Celtics more with the players. And so I am looking forward to tomorrow, to our Celtics' first exhibition game, hosted by Rajon himself, and featuring a variety of Celtic players and friends. I think that our guys have shown tremendous character during the contract dispute with the owners, and I expect them to raise the bar for the other players in this exhibition.
"Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will be playing basketball in Boston this winter, at least for one night.
Rondo is set to host the “Boston Charity Classic” at Harvard on Saturday, November 19, with proceeds of the event benefiting local charities.
Rondo will not be alone, with a few of his teammates playing in the game as well. Celtics teammates Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Jeff Green and JaJaun Johnson. Also set to play are former Celtics Kendrick Perkins, Marquis Daniels and Leon Powe, Josh Smith, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Jeremy Lin and Kyle Lowrie."
This may not be the season we expected, but to my way of thinking, it still is a Celtics season, and it looks like Rondo is Ready...