|Posted by paul on December 29, 2012 at 5:20 AM|
I keep seeing Chris Paul in my dreams. Not literally, but let's say I keep seeing him in my mind's eye. I see him pushing the ball up against the Celtics, making it hard for the Cs to set their defense. Then I see him continuing to pressure the Cs' defense in the half-court, breaking it down, making it easy for his team to attack the Cs D, even though he himself isn't shooting well.
In my mind's eye I see Rondo, over and over. He's walking the ball up. The Clippers D sets perfectly by the time he gets into the half court. He acts like he thinks he's playing football, not basketball, football being a game where each team sets before the play begins. But even in the half-court, Rondo acts like a football qb. He's always looking to either hand off, or pass off to Ray Allen after he runs a pattern, even though Ray Allen isn't here anymore, and even though Ray Allen was the only guy in the game who was well suited to the way Rondo wanted to deliver the ball. Rondo is probably the best in the league at breaking the defense down, when he goes on the attack, but he rarely does it. He's like a football qb who can run the ball, but rarely does. No one can understand why he doesn't use one of his best talents, a talent he is better at than anyone. Even in transition, he rarely attacks the basket anymore. Perhaps, like a qb, he is afraid of injury. He often gets clobbered when he goes on the attack.
Such are my nightmares. I keep seeing Paul attacking, bending and twisting the Cs' defense. I keep seeing Rondo passively walking the ball up, and then waiting, and then handing or passing the ball off to a teammate who jacks an ill-fated J. I see this same process unfolding, over and over again, and a Clippers lead steadily mounting up. Ten points. Twenty points. Thirty points. Forty points. Four hundred points. What's the point?
If our point guard is just an errand guy, who hauls the ball up the court, what is the point?
I don't think Chris Paul is a more talented pg than Rondo. I'd take Rondo over Paul ten times out of ten. But I know I'd lose 9 times out of ten. Maybe in the tenth game Aggressive Rondo would show up, and the tables would turn. He'd control the tempo of the game, sometimes walking the ball up, but sometimes pushing it,, and sometimes darting through transition like a lightning bolt. In the halfcourt, he'd direct traffic with a secret knowledge of what was going to happen before it happened. He'd probe and push at the defense, not just looking for weaknesses, but forcing them to react to him, drawing double and triple teams. He'd demand that his teammates move without the ball, and he'd find them for open shots in rhythm, cuts to the basket, lobs, etc.. He and Pierce would feel each other, finding each other effortlessly in traffic, and finding teamates, leading to lots of assists and 'hockey assists'. One time out of ten I'd see basketball at its best. The other nine times, it wouldn't even be basketball. I guess it would be some horrid basketball/football hybrid. I'd find myself cheering for Chris Paul, to my own horror, because at least he plays the game, though he may not have the magical talent of my Rondo.
I know I talked of trading Rondo yesterday. Of course I didn't really mean it. To me, Rondo, at his best, is what the Celtics are all about. It's too bad that much of the time he isn't even what basketball is about, much less the Celtics. Has anyone noticed that Rondo's shot has been positively beautiful at times this year? He's actually starting to have a beautiful shot all his own. At times his delivery, unorthodox as it is, is as smooth as anyone's, and the ball slips into the basket like it was always there. It's just too bad that he would rather play football, or so it seems at times.
No, I don't want to trade Rondo. But that nightmare keeps replaying in my head. Chris Paul attacking. Rondo playing passively. Paul Pierce jacking off-balance Js. Ray Allen snickering. Pat Reilly obsessively slicking back his hair...
When Rondo started the season, I thought he came off like a guy who was starting strong and picking up steam. He started out poorly on D, but he began to pick that up too. The team began to show that it was "soft", as Doc put it, and Rondo tried to address that too. He seemed to be trying to sort out the challenge of leading this team. What seemed to knock him off course was the storm of criticism over his assist streak. The media were brutal, and blazingly unfair, led by the weirdly nasty Boston Globe oldtimers. They denigrated the significance of the Rondo's streak, and worse, they constantly suggested that it was a tribute not to his brilliance and unselfish play, but to his selfishness and narcissism. What made matters worse was that Doc seemed to be listening. At first Doc seemed to defend his super-talented pg, but as always he bent to pressure. Doc always wants to please everyone. He too began to denigrate Rondo's streak, however mildly. Unsurprisingly, The Streak went down in flames. The talking heads declared themselves well-pleased. They seemed to feel that they had won.
What did you win? You seem to have broken the spirit of a great young player. Are you proud of that? Rondo hasn't been the same since, it seems to me. He seemed to become confused about his role, and then Pierce, as is his wont, stepped into what he then saw as a leadership vacuum, and the rivalry we've seen between him and Rondo so often went back into overdrive, or seemed to.
When Pierce takes over the leadership role, Rondo invariably becomes even more passive than usual. He always plays far too passively, but then he turns into the Rondo we saw in LA. Passive Rondo. Rondo who brings the ball up and hands it to Pierce. Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that we now have the same balance of age in the starting unit that we often had after Perkins left? I think that is a lot of what bothers Rondo too. Doc seems to like having four oldsters in the starting lineup with Rondo, but that creates a balance of power that seems to make Rondo feel like an errand guy. In my view, the most important thing about Bradley for Rondo is that he is young, like Rondo, and sympatico with Rondo, that he looks up to Rondo, and that he gives Rondo a better balance of power in the starting unit.
I say, don't kid yourself. These things really matter. Basketball is a game of relationships, however cold and 'professional' folks try to make it sound.
Now Rondo seems confused and lost. Bob Ryan must be sooooo proud of himself. How will Rondo rebalance himself, or will he? The thing is, I don't see how playing passively helps anything. How can that possibly be the answer, Rondo? It led to you being skunked by Chris Paul for all the world to see, and your team along with you. It COULD lead to you being traded, and then you go to a team where more than likely there is no one there to have your back. Doesn't it make sense, if you are going down, to give it your best shot? Play like the fierce force of nature we know you can be. Try to stop thinking about what the boobirds say, even when Doc begins to echo them. You've been pushed down, Rondo. Get up and push back.