|Posted by paul on February 1, 2013 at 8:40 AM|
What a funny world. When I write a piece suggesting that the trainwreck this season became, and the sudden, glorious emergence of the team we expected this summer instantly upon Rondo's removal by Fate, point to a darker substory, I'm told that I'm reaching. I'm actually only stating what should be fairly obvious. But when a writer posts a story on Celtics Blog, suggesting that Rondo was a cancer, who needed to be cut out, and that this is why instantly upon his removal, the team rose up gloriously, it gets promoted to the CB front page.
It didn't take long for the Haters to pull out the C-word, "cancer", did it? And it didn't take long for the prime Celtics fan blog to promote that "cancer" post to post heaven. Rajon Rondo is a cancer. Like Doug Flutie was a cancer. Oh, he's a prima donna too, of course. Also like Flutie. The writer does admit that Rondo is a talented player, and even admits that there might be a sliver of hope for Rondo...
So what will all this mean when Rondo comes back? Well... one hopes that Doc's eyes will be opened, that he AND Rondo will be forced to understand the reality of the situation, after watching the team's performance without RR. And we hope that Rondo will be forced to change. If he does change -- if he STOPS monopolizing the offense and lets all creators create (so defenses will never know where to expect the next attack).... if he STOPS gambling on defense (and playing free safety like the prima donna he became) and just plays straight-up solid D.... and if he STOPS being constitutionally ABLE to throw away perfectly open, easy scoring opportunities in favor of crazy passes to who-knows-whom -- then the Celtics could become the best team in the world. Because that's a lot of talent that guy has. If he starts using it the right way -- defined solely as the way that makes the team better and wins games -- then nothing can stop us.
That's nice, isn't it? All Rondo has to do is stop being Rondo and become a cog in a machine and the Haters will love him.
As I've said before, the difference between Rondo fans and Haters, in my view, is that we see his faults, but we see his virtues too, and we don't blame EVERYTHING on him. As Rich Levine pointed out the other day, if this team starts losing again, the Haters will still blame it on Rondo (Levine didn't use the word "haters"). I personally don't think that will happen. I don't think the last two wins were mirages. This team seems to have found itself. It will do well.
The other thing is that I don't think Rondo fans are willing to let The Underachievers off the hook. I'm not, and I daresay most Rondo fans feel similarly. So many players seemed to turn into their better basketball angels the instant Rondo was gone. What works works, and if it took Rondo being gone to make this team better, then fine, that's what it needed, but I don't think you transform that way unless you were holding back before. I think it's rather strange to suggest that one it all happened naturally, completely spontaneously. It's like saying that those guys had no responsibility to adapt to Rondo's game in the first place. To me, that is just so crazy. I guess it's just soo easy to blame everything on one guy who looks different and plays different and seems to march to a different drummer.
That is the curse of team sports. It is often the realm of conformity. It often features social enlightenment on a junior high school level. Haters in the fandom and media hounded Rondo mercilessly for years. They finally bagged their prey, and now the dancing has begun.
Commonsense will tell anyone listening to it that a team doesn't go from awful to brilliant on the removal of one player unless that player is A) the devil incarnate or B) they suddenly decided to 'turn it on'. We'll hear more about the real story about what happened as time goes by. Be sure of that. And it won't be all Rondo is evil!!!!!!!!! We'll hear about Rondo's stubbornness, I'm pretty sure. We'll hear about how Doc protected him too much. We'll hear about how the eccentricities in Rondo's game loomed larger and larger until they began to eat up his game. But we'll also hear about how Pierce could never really accept Rondo as a rival leader, despite his nice words. We'll hear about how other players fine words of accepting Rondo's leadership were belied by their actual behavior. We'll hear about how a poisonous gap developed between this team's best player and the rest of the team, KG excepted, and about how it was by no means all Rondo's fault.
On one level it all doesn't matter. If this team succeeds, who cares why Rondo's departure helped the team? What's more, it's unlikely he'll ever be back in a Celtics uniform, I suspect, if this team does succeed without him. Is Rondo willing to come off the bench? Maybe, but I doubt it, and I wonder if he would even be any good in a bench role. Maybe he would be great? But one has to doubt he would accept it and adapt. He needs to be a leader, and it was precisely this need that got him into trouble this season. He demanded control over the ball, but he didn't do enough with it. The thing is, you can't lead and follow at the same time, and all too often, that's precisely what Rondo tried to do.
Even if the Rondo-less Cs fail, it's not certain that Rondo would return. We don't know how well he will recover from his injury, and we don't know how well he will fit into whatever plans the Celtics make between now and then. It's not realistic to think that they can plan their future around a guy who may not even be back, or who may not be the same player if he does come back. There is a long journey ahead for Rondo, and the ultimate destination is unclear.
But these new Celtics had better win. If they don't win, there will surely be a housecleaning, and only KG and Sully will be exempt at this point, I suspect. And if they don't win, the Haters Dance may be over, and they may be the ones trying to explain why it didn't bother them at all that their heros apparantly allowed their lack of enthusiasm for Rondo drag down the first half of the season.
Grantland has been playing a surprisingly - almost heroically - sane and decent role since Rondo's injury. Here is the key part of their input today...
It’s a tenuous kind of stature that Rondo enjoys. Everyone knows he’s the best player on the team. Everyone knows the team tried to give him the reins this year. But everyone’s ready to cut him down, too. For all his manifold aesthetic pleasures, the flaws are never far from sight. (That’s why it’s almost easier for non-Boston-fans to grieve the ACL; they can just talk about how fun he is to watch, without worrying about all the baggage.) Technically, the 2008 ring bolsters that stature. If you’ve won already, you get some kind of partial criticism immunity, right? But he was more or less an afterthought on that squad — slotted into the starting lineup because half the team was traded away to get KG, then handling his position admirably. The mercurial wonder we now know as Rajon Rondo only bloomed later.
Right now, a silver lining, best-case scenario means a successful narrative transition, from “underperforming fringe contender” to “fuzzy, feel-good underdog of triumph and good will.” But not really. The team overachieving while Rondo does monster walks in physical therapy means at least starting that conversation about what Rondo’s true value is. And that’s a depressing conversation.
Author Amos Barshad is right; some kind of debate over Rondo's value is unavoidable at this point. Rondo could have firmly established himself as the leader of this team, but he didn't. Of course, reasonable people would presumably acknowledge that three months isn't a lot of time to give a possible leader, but setting that aside, he didn't do it. So now we debate. But not with hate. As far as I can see, folks are having just waay too much joy sticking it to the geek, right now. Why that 'man' interns at GQ! He CAN'T be a real basketball player. He must be a flashy poser. He must be a pink tofu eater.
Sully has Rondo's back, giving him some props:
What makes the debate tougher is that it hinges on some things that will take place in the future.