|Posted on December 24, 2012 at 7:30 AM|
The early months of 2010 seem to be completely forgotten today, but the Celtics were a truly dominant team then, and Rajon Rondo was dominant. But injuries took their toll, on Rondo and Shaq, and The Trade happened, and the season that perhaps should have ended in glory fizzled out and became a memory we like to forget. I often wonder how much the nagging injuries that beset Rondo in 2010, especially the plantar fasciitis, continue to haunt him.
I've had plantar fasciitis. I don't know how much Rondo's experience was like mine, but for me, it was a bit of a nightmare. Plantar fasciitis is an invisible injury, at least as I experienced it. You can't point to casts, or scars, or other obvious indications of serious injury. It's like back pain, or headaches, or carpel tunnel. No one else can see you have it, and the thing is, if you complain about it more than once, you are labeled a complainer. So it's not visible, and you can't really talk about it. But it IS debilitating. I had this job where I ran around doing stuff all day long. I loved it. I was working hard, I was active, and life was good. Then the pf set in. It was horrible. I try to describe it as someone stabbing you in the bottom of the foot, only the knife is also a blowtorch.
The pain is debilitating, and it takes a loooong time to heal. Most injuries seem to heal fairly quickly. You have the injury, you go through a healing process, and then you are back to normal, or close to normal. In my experience, pf took a year to heal. At least. I can't even remember for sure how long, just that it took a very long time. I don't know how Rondo played basketball with it. I know that I went from being an eager and hardworking guy, to a seemingly lazy and unmotivated guy. You can't explain to folks why you don't hustle like you used to. They don't want to hear it. It just sounds like excuses. Your self-esteem suffers. But maybe the worst thing is the nasty feeling you get that you are being punished for trying your best, or that you somehow can't try your hardest. It's like you aren't allowed to. And once you've had pf, it seems to me that the fear it will return never quite goes away. We saw the agony KG went through a couple of years ago when it seemed, for a few games, that his knee injury might have returned. He's never quite been the same dominant player since the injury. Now imagine that kind of agony over the possible return of an ailment that no one can see.
I've wondered if the pf changed Rondo's game. I feel like it did. I feel like it might have something to do with the way he seems to save himself, the way he seems to pick his spots. It seems like he throws himself at the game less than he once did. I also wonder sometimes if smaller players can ever effect the game as consisently as bigger players. Compare Isiah Thomas to Larry Bird. A bigger guy effects the game a lot just by being there. I'm talking about really basic things. A smaller player has to run harder, jump higher, make more amazing plays more consistently, if he wants to accomplish as much as a bigger player. He has to substitute energy and effort for just being there. I think Thomas was just as dominant a player as Bird, but he picked his spots. He seemed to coast and surge, coast and surge, much as Rondo does, and he had to have a full complement of strong players around him, especially up front. Think about rebounds. A guy like Bird could get a lot of rebounds just by being there, being large, having good fundementals and good reflexes. A guy like Isiah had to come swooping in, find just the right spot, and leap to the skies to get a rebound. That's how it is for Rondo too.
So maybe a smaller player has to pick his spots more anyway if he wants to dominate, and then with Rondo maybe there is the lingering fear of plantar fasciitis and other nagging injuries coming back? Already he's sprained his ankles twice this season. I think he worries a lot about his feet and legs. I think that a lingering debilitating injury like pf can cause bad habits, and those bad habits can, in turn, complicate efforts to be a leader.
So maybe this is part of the reason that Rondo looks forward to Bradley's return. He needs an ally, kind of like Thomas needed Dumars.