|Posted by paul on October 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM|
After a long summer spent establishing himself as the leader of the Celtics, with a team that has now been crafted around him, and after having been dubbed the team's leader by Danny, Doc, KG and Paul Pierce, Rondo caused a stir yesterday by suddenly declaring that he is not the leader. No doubt, part of the reason Rondo did this was just to cause a stir. One does have to have a bit of fun with the media, doesn't one?
My interpretation, though, was that it was also a bit of a wimpout by Rondo, and presaged ongoing struggles between him and Pierce for team leadership. Several folks here thought that Rondo was just trying to show respect for KG and Pierce. I think we all need to remember that when people do things, they often have multiple reasons. All the explanations mentioned so far could be true at the same time.
I think it's true that Rondo was trying to show respect, but I also think that he really does need to be more assertive this year, as in, very assertive. I think Ainge made the most important point anyone has made about Rondo this summer when he pointed to the final minutes of Sixers Game Seven, and the way Rondo rose to the occasion when Pierce fouled out. We need Rondo to be the take charge guy as games wind down. We got a glimpse that day of what could be. Of course I'm not advocating taking the ball out of Paul's hands. Paul is still a great player and great scorer. I'm advocating that Rondo needs to be the number one option, and he needs to be the guy who determines when Paul gets the ball, and I'm saying that what happened in Heat Game Six -- where Paul seemed to take over, even though he wasn't playing well, and Rondo was playing well, presumably just because the assumption was that Paul was The Man no matter what --- should never happen again.
It doesn't demean Paul or KG at all for you to be the leader, Rondo!! It demeans everyone for you to continue to be bashful about being the leader.
But I'm also convinced now that Rondo's comments about leadership reflect a deep mind thinking out loud, a mind that is much deeper than we are used to seeing in sports. I think Rondo wants us all to see that the very concept of leadership can be looked at differently. What if there is no 'alpha dog'? What if leadership is something that everyone takes responsibility for? Would that lead to chaos?
"Each year since I've been here, we've had a close team," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "We just have to do a better job of sacrificing on and off the court, being better followers. We have a lot of strong ego guys that at times may not want to follow or may not know when to be coached. It's just being a better listener and more positive with your teammates."
It's possible that Rondo is just saying that everyone should shut up and listen to Doc, which isn't bad advice, to a point. But I think he's getting at something deeper. I think he's saying that if everyone is both a leader and a follower, a talker and a listener, there won't be one player dominating all the other players. This is actually in line with the Celtics' traditional style of leadership. We never had the Michael Jordan/Shaqille O'Neil type prima donnas. Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett ... these weren't guys who dominated games by themselves, kicked everyones butts if they seemed to be slacking, etc.. Russell had a reputation for Pride. Cowens had a reputation for Intensity. Bird had a reputation for Determination. KG has a reputation for Ferocity. All these guys could kick a butt on occasion, but mostly they really didn't and don't. Mostly they led by inspiring their teammates. Rondo is very much in that tradition.
That's one reason why I say again that it all begins on defense for Rondo this year. If he lays it all out on the floor on defense the way he does on offense, he may need more spot rest (and with Terry on board, that's no problem), a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but his teammates will follow him anywhere. Only they won't really be following him. They'll be ahead of him, behind him, all around him.
And at the end of his career, the boobirds will say about Rondo what they've said about Russell, Cowens and even Bird: that he was great because of the great players around him. And that's fine, because it's the Celtics Way. We all make each other better. Even we fans try to do that.
Defense, defense, defense...