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"IN RONDO WE TRUST"

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Rondology: Leadership

Posted by paul on February 5, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Shawn wrote a great piece on leadership today.  It's a topic I've been thinking about a lot.  With Rondo this season, we've had a great case study in the struggles, and near-total failure, of a would-be leader.


Of course, that's a very negative way to look at what happened this past half-season.  Another way to look at it, and hopefully a more accurate way, is that Rondo is halfway to being a great leader.   Maybe he didn't fully succeed, but he didn't completely fail either, and while he did lead the team to a bad record, maybe the efforts he made to lead are paying off in his absence.  For example, Rondo helped bring Lee to this team, and when Lee was struggling, Rondo apparently began a pre-game ritual of one-on-one games with Lee that appears to have been a way to try forge a bond and keep Lee involved.  Perhaps all that contributed to Lee's success at stepping into Rondo's shoes, after Rondo's ACL.


As I've noticed several times recently, the Haters are having an absolute orgy these days.  Rondo going down and the team responding with a win streak is their dream come true.  Unless this team stumbles, I suspect the crescendo of Hate will continue to rise, to an unabated roar.  Sadly, human beings long for someone to hate.  Sometimes they want that more than they want someone to succeed.  I have to admit, I myself am having my struggles with my feelings about the current Celtics team.  I hope they continue to do well, and I applaud their excellent play, but I don't like them.   I know that they are doing some of the things that Rondo refused to do, and I hope Rondo is paying attention to them and taking notes.


 Leadership is not the same as controlling everything.  That's one thing to learn from the way the team is playing, and from some of the player's comments since Rondo went down.  Look at Isiah Thomas.  As great a player as Thomas was,  clearly the best on his team by far (I'd say), and one of the greatest of all time, he often seemed almost invisible on his team, relative to other players;   he was always there, facilitating, but he didn't control the ball constantly, he picked his spots to assert himself.  I'm not saying that Rondo needs to play like Thomas.  I think he will always be far more controlling than most point guards.  He has to find his own approach.  But a lighter hand on the wheel might help him and his teammates in the future.  


There is a kind of balance to be found amongst all the players, and it's not always easy to find.  The history of the NBA is full of stories of teams that might have been championship teams, if they had been able to find a better balance amongst the assembled talents.  If a proper balance wasn't found on the Celtics this year, until after Rondo was hurt, it wasn't necessarily all Rondo's fault.   Leaders catch all the blame, and sometimes they deserve it, but not always.  Multiple players on this year's team, both before Rondo went down and (especially) after, have suggested that what they needed to be successful was to have the ball more.  I find it astounding that no one has challenged this.  It comes darn close to them saying that they couldn't contribute to the team until they got the ball, a crazily selfish notion that they should have the ball instead of Rondo.  And I would argue that it correlates with what we saw the first half of this season.  Yes,  on one hand, Rondo not only controlled the ball too much, but didn't do enough with it when he had it.  He was too passive for someone holding the ball that much.  His favorite notion, that he is like a football QB, seemed to have too strong a grip on his mind.  At times he forgot that basketball and football are two different games, and in some ways, they are opposite games.  But it also seemed clear, during the first half of this season,  that Rondo's teammates were making little effort to make plays, or to move without the ball so as to give Rondo good options, to execute crisply and effectively,  or to even run on the break.  It's fairly unconscionable, in my view, that so many folks seem to be giving Rondo's teammates a total pass for not making more of an effort to work with him and to follow his lead.  At times it was like they were not even there.  


Remember, those guys came here knowing very well that this was a team where Rondo controlled the ball.  This was not a surprise sprung on them.  And to a man, as I recall, they declared emphatically and even passionately that they weren't just ok with that;  that they loved it.  That they couldn't wait to play with Rondo.  So for them to explain that the reason they played badly before  Rondo was hurt was that Rondo was controlling the ball too much, and they wanted to have the ball  more, is  really, well, perverse.   It's almost like they felt like they could just wait for Rondo to be gone and then they'd play the way they always wanted to play.  It seems like they felt that Rondo was in their way.  Yet they came here knowing he was here, knowing how he played.


Peter May - a noted Hater, I believe - had this to say about Rondo's (mis)leadership yesterday:

go back to a week ago Sunday. The Heat were in town, with old friend Ray Allen making his first Boston appearance since his defection to the Voldemorts of the NBA. The Celtics had lost six straight. Jeff Green was living up to his nickname (Mr. October). Jason Terry looked more like a barnstorming biplane than a jet. Courtney Lee looked utterly lost.

... the Celtics' record was 20-23, including an 18-20 mark in the games Rondo played. ...

This was supposed to be Rondo's breakout season, not only in terms of stats and achievements, but also in terms of leadership and overall command. He was anointed the team leader in October. He was given an extra-long leash by coach Doc Rivers. His ultra-strong personality would now be even more of a factor on and off the court.

The Celtics were quite willing to live with that. Rondo was an All-Star, a difference-maker, a unique talent. But in the 38 games that Rondo played, what did the Celtics get? They got Rondo chasing a silly assists mark over the first 15 games, a chase that ended with his Humphries altercation. They got a Rondo who, according to one scout interviewed by the estimable Marc Stein, was "playing for steals and assists sometimes instead of making the winning play or the easier play or defending his guy like he should."

They got 20 losses in those 38 games. That's the statistic to focus on. The Celtics were a sub-.500 team. Now they're above water again at 24-23, winners of four straight, and it is impossible not to notice what is going on. The Celtics have become the team they were supposed to be.

http://espn.go.com/boston/nba/story/_/id/8913391/is-boston-celtics-team-better-rajon-rondo

This has become the preferred angle of attack on Rondo.  The overt claim is that Rondo cares only about his statistics.  The covert claim is that everything is always Rondo's fault, that none of the players around Rondo bear any responsibility for making things work.    Think about it:  if this team was meant to be built around Rondo, how can the way they are playing now be "the team they were supposed to be"?  I admit, I've used the phrase too, but always recognizing that the Cs were supposed to be playing with this kind of passion and unselfishness WITH Rondo.  They didn't.  To make that all Rondo's  fault, the Haters have to construct a picture of Rondo that is flat out absurd,  asserting - now as a given, a known thing - that all he cares about is his statistics.  No one ever says anything more reasonable, such as that a fault Rondo has is that he cares too much about his personal statistics, because that would suggest that Rondo, like most people, has faults, which would also imply that he has virtues that have the potential to overcome his faults.  If we put KG under a microscope, do we see any faults?  Pierce?  Lee?   Just to entertain the thought is to laugh, right?  Those guys are riddled with faults.   Sure, KG is our most dependable player, but he wilts under pressure, and he hates to bang with the Big Guys in the middle, where we really need him the most.  Pierce?  Just replay the last three losses where Rondo had triple doubles, or near triple doubles, but couldn't lead us to wins because of the heinous plays Pierce made.  EVERYONE HAS FAULTS. 


I think that Rondo has long since proven that he is a team player.  This business about how he sacrifices the team for his own stats has been built up into a monster.  There's truth to it, but it doesn't define him as a player.  The bottom line is that this kid loves his team and loves to pass the ball.  For folks to work so hard to deny that is fairly sick, if you ask me.  If you ask me, the crazy hate frenzy that built up around Rondo's assist streak is part of what destroyed Rondo this season.  The constant ripping of Rondo in the media seemed to confuse him on one hand, while hurting his standing with the team on the other.  I think a lot of the folks in the media don't like Rondo because he doesn't cater to them, and they want to prove their power to make or break a player.  If they were really honest, they'd admit that what they really want is for Rondo to acknowledge their supposed  importance.   Meanwhile, I think a lot of folks in the fandom just don't like someone who is eccentric, who marches to his own drummer.  The thing they like about sports is the conformity that sports often enables, or even demands.


Rondo did a lot of things right this season.  According to reports, he worked hard to bring in new players and to make them comfortable, and to foster team spirit.  Like KG, he spent extra time working with the new players, such as Sullinger and Lee.  He made a consistent effort to be more available and forthcoming to the media.  He tried repeatedly to step up when the team was struggling.  Until the ridiculous and mean-spirited controversey about his assist streak broke out, Rondo was playing some of the most consistent ball of his career.   Those who claim that all Rondo cares about are triple doubles, etc., might have to explain why Rondo missed several triple doubles this season by only one rebound.   He couldn't find a way to snag one more rebound?


Rondo's failures this season were glaring, though.   He spent so much time this summer glory-dancing around the world with Red Bull that he didn't really seem focused on the season, and when the games came, this showed right away.  He and Doc didn't seem to have a plan for how to rebuild the offense with all the new talent in mind.  Nor did there seem to be a plan for the defense, despite the fact that we were weaker up front than ever before.   On both offense and defense, Rondo seemed unable to adjust to the fact that things had changed.  Personnel had drastically changed.  He acknowledged this verbally, but he continued to play defense as if he could just continue to do his ball-hawking dance with rotating Bigs like Perkins, and the younger KG.  On offense, Rondo continued to slow the ball down and wait for set plays to develope, as if Ray Allen was still curling around multiple screens.  


Basically, neither Rondo nor Doc seemed to adjust to the reality of a changed team, and the new players, for their part, seemed unwilling to adapt.


So Rondo has a lot to think about, if he wants to become a true leader.  Maybe just hustling more and playing tougher man-to-man defense would have provided the kind of inspiration and leadership-by-example that would have made a huge difference to his teammates.  Maybe telling Red Bull that he needs to spend more time on basketball over the summer would have made a difference.  Maybe the media not ganging up on him, and his teammates being more willing to work with the guy they all acknowledged as their leader would have made a difference.  


In the end, leadership is an art, and Rondo's future will surely be determined by how well he studies that art.


----------------------------------


Terry had this to say today:

"(The new style of offense) is much more open, it's free-willing," Terry said following the Celtics 106-104 win over the Clippers on Sunday. "The defense can't sit on particular plays. This league is great with scouting and they get used to you, they kind of know your tendencies. But in this offense, it's very unpredictable. You don't know who's going to get a shot, but we know we're going to get a good one."

 

http://www.csnne.com/basketball-boston-celtics/celtics-talk/Terry-taking-off-in-new-offensive-system?blockID=828855&feedID=3352

To me, this mostly sounds like "excuse me for stinking the joint up while Rondo was here, but everything's the way I want it now!"  He knew when he signed on here that Rondo ran the offense.

Kudos to Redsarmy for (gently) calling Terry out:

http://redsarmy.com/2013/02/05/breaking-down-every-shot-in-jason-terrys-hot-streak/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RedsArmy+%28Red%27s+Army%3A+The+Voice+Of+Celtics+Fans%29

Remember, folks, it wasn't long ago that Terry was praising Rondo to the skies, calling him the best pg in the game, loudly and repeatedly.  Now he's pretty much hammering a dagger into Rondo's back.  Nobody finds that a little weird?

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15 Comments

Reply insidious
11:31 AM on February 5, 2013 
This post is excellent! A very balanced perspective to the pre-injury and post-injury Rondo team. You're right, a lot of what the haters and media focus on is Rondo faults, and for sure he was culpable as anyone. But to solely blame him is wrong.

The team (including Doc) all share some responsibility for the team under-performing prior to Rondo's injury. Rondo's leadership has always been in question since his Kentucky days and much hasn't changed. I know I shouldn't but I partly blame Ainge and Doc (even though he recanted after) for forcing the leadership thing down his throat. You could tell he was not comfortable with the label and became too controlling as a result. Hopefully this downtime for him will provide him lessons on what leadership is really about. But you are right, he did show glimpses of it this season even if the media refuse to recognize it. I strongly agree with the last sentence. Rondo's future will surely be determined by how well he studies the art of leadership.
Reply paul
11:41 AM on February 5, 2013 
Insidious, I love your comment about the leadership role being crammed down Rondo's throat, that as a result he became over-controlling. I think that's a strong insight. This could also have had something to do with Rondo's obsession over his personal statistics. I felt like they became a kind of security blanket to him, and maybe a way to measure how he was doing - and in the second half of last season, at least, it worked out well that way.

The other side of the coin, though, with regards to the leadership role being crammed down Rondo's throat, is that Rondo seems to demand control of the ball. It's hard to imagine him not playing the leadership role because of this, and also because he would surely need to be a far better shooter, or be a defensive specialist, or come off the bench, if he was not in the leadership role. His strongest asset seems to be his vision of the game and for the game. But you are right, there was, I think, a clear sense in training camp, based on some of Rondo's contradictory comments, that he was feeling pressured by the whole thing.

I do think my view here is more balanced than most of the commentators who don't seem to be at all suspicious about the way the team seemed to turn on their jets when Rondo was gone, and then seemed to indirectly blame Rondo for their struggles before, really acting as though it was some kind of shock to them that Rondo ran the offense, like they had no responsibility to make the offense work while Rondo was here, since he was such a tyrant. They don't say it in those words, of course, but isn't that what they are trying very hard to write between the lines? And isn't that the message that too many commentators are all too ready to read and amplify? The team is clearly better off with Rondo gone, I think, but is that all Rondo's fault? So many people just have this obsessive anger at him. One guy on twitter just drones on and on and on about Rondo, like it's his personal mission in life, like Ray Allen pays him.

I too blame Doc quite a bit. I feel like Doc put Rondo in position to fail, because he seemed to make no well thought out adjustments to the system, with the new personnel in mind.
Reply insidious
12:12 PM on February 5, 2013 
Paul, I agree that part of the controlling thing can be a result of Rondo's focus on his personal stats. I think he feels that he needs stats (particularly the assists) to prove some of his worth. Especially after realizing he was on the assist streak last year. You could tell it meant a great deal to him if he broke the record. I can see how many would see that as a bit selfish. It should be team first. I honestly think Rondo was about the team just didn't seem to understand that this team was a different team from the past years. Like you said he didn't adjust, but neither did the other teammates. One blogger asked an interesting question: Did Rondo really trust his new teammates?

However with those comments of Terry, maybe he shouldnt have. Never liked Jason Terry, really. He knew what he was signing up for. Backstabber indeed.

Oh and I think I know the twitter guy you speak of. The one who blames Rondo for everything especially Ray Allen's leaving? Some folks are just miserable.
Reply paul
1:01 PM on February 5, 2013 
insidious says...
Paul, I agree that part of the controlling thing can be a result of Rondo's focus on his personal stats. I think he feels that he needs stats (particularly the assists) to prove some of his worth. Especially after realizing he was on the assist streak last year. You could tell it meant a great deal to him if he broke the record. I can see how many would see that as a bit selfish. It should be team first. I honestly think Rondo was about the team just didn't seem to understand that this team was a different team from the past years. Like you said he didn't adjust, but neither did the other teammates. One blogger asked an interesting question: Did Rondo really trust his new teammates?

However with those comments of Terry, maybe he shouldnt have. Never liked Jason Terry, really. He knew what he was signing up for. Backstabber indeed.

Oh and I think I know the twitter guy you speak of. The one who blames Rondo for everything especially Ray Allen's leaving? Some folks are just miserable.


I don't think Rondo should have trusted his teammates, in retrospect, though what choice does one have? I think he is a very trusting person. This might seem a paradox because of the way he comes off, because of his prickly exterior, but I think he's actually very trusting.

I smell a rat with some of these guys. And I find some significance in the fact that Bradley is Terry's protege, apparently, going back years. Bradley, in a way, benefits more than anyone, because he becomes the hot new face of the Celtics, the Man of the Moment. Now that's a reach, but that doesn't mean there is something too it. Does anyone really still believe Bradley's "aw shucks" act? I don't. I guess a lot of folks do.

About the stats: I think Rondo has some kind of obsession with numbers too. I think he got a bit carried away, but I think too the media made it into such a hate circus, like having double digit assists proved what a jerk Rondo was.
Reply paul
5:36 PM on February 5, 2013 
As the Blame Rondo non-debate (I say non-debate because 90% agree that Rondo is to blame) heats up, the reasonable seeming ones are the ones who offer that maybe part of it was Doc's fault, or maybe it's just a matter of Rondo not being a good match with the players brought in this summer (which would make it Ainge's fault?); NO ONE brings up the blazingly obvious question: if Rondo had an obligation to adapt to his teammates, didn't they have an obligation to adapt to him? It's a rhetorical question. Of course they did.
Reply Morena
5:40 PM on February 5, 2013 
Great read once again Paul!!
I really liked several things that you pointed out.

First of all, the fact that new players like Lee or Terry say that Rondo controlled the ball to much, but they knew exactly that this would have happend with Rondo. I was thinking the same thing yesterday.
They praised Rondo to the sky when they first came here, and now they stab him in the back like they didn't know the way he plays. And thank you for the RedsArmy link, it's interesting to know that Terry is not taking more shots, he's just making them.a
I also like what you said about the relationship between Rondo and the media.
That's how I see it too. They don't like him because he doesn't bow down in front of them and they're trying to destroy him. I think that some of the monster attack on Rondo may have increased the problem with the team. As you said, I think they confused him and on the other hand, they kept saying that everything that went wrong was Rondo's fault and they probably convinced some of his teammates of that.
Rondo sure love this stats, but I love it when you say that they became like a security blanket to him. They always citicized him (and rightly so) for being inconsistent, and like you said, his numbers became to him a way to mesure his consistency. I really think that's the truth, because as you pointed out, the bottom line is that he is a team player, he loves his team and he loves to pass.

The part about his faults also is true.

As I said, I hope Rondo will take all this critics in the "right" way and come back as a stronger person and a stronger leader, ready to show everybody how important he is and ready to lead by example.
Sometimes I still don't know how Rondo will react. He seems such a strong and fragile person at the same time that makes him even less predictable.
If he can bear all this stubbing in the back, I think he will have the opportunity to study the art of leadership the right way, and this means that we will have the chance to see something really special.
Reply paul
7:13 AM on February 6, 2013 
Thanks for your thoughts, Morena. I'm really convinced that the media folks have it in for Rondo in part because they want to prove to him that they matter, that they can make or break careers. For his part, Rondo would do well to communicate more openly, but I can't say I ever want him to become the kind of smooth talker that so many other players are. He keeps it real, to overuse a phrase. I love that. I hope he never loses that, even if media types hate it.

The controversy the media stirred up over the assists was so crazy. As Danny pointed out the other day, when Mchale scored 56, Larry Bird wanted to score 60. I don't think that Rondo is the only player who uses stats to help motivate himself. As Danny said, the key is to try to keep it all in perspective. Well THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE MEDIA DIDN'T DO, and never seems to do about Rondo.

Rondo is so talented, and talent can be a tough burden to carry. Lonely too. No one understands what you are going through, I think. It's hard to find anyone you can even begin to talk to about your difficulties and feelings and struggles. Most just won't get it, can't get it, even folks ostensibly similar to you. On top of that, everyone expects so much, and forgets that you are human after all. And that's understandable too.

I think about this when I think about how amazing Rondo could be, how he could play some of the best basketball ever, and how much I'd like to see that. I seem to be far from alone in this wish. But what if that is not his destiny? What if his priorities in life don't align with that? He is a human being with a human life. Personally, I think he should put aside Red Bull and focus on becoming the great player he could be, the great leader he could be. But it's his life and his sense of priorities matter the most. Right now, simple healing is most important.

I do hope Rondo comes back with a stronger body, better shooting, much better man-to-man defense, and a better sense of how to lead. Would love to see that.
Reply paul
7:19 AM on February 6, 2013 
I do find it weird, too, that so many players are acting like they had no idea what kind of offense the Celtics ran, or that Rondo controlled the ball a lot for the Cs, and even stranger that no one is calling them on this.

You knew when you came here what you were getting into.
Reply paul
10:32 AM on February 6, 2013 
Right on tweet:

Gary Dzen ‏@GlobeGaryDzen
Great point by a reader on Rondo's "petulance": "If some of the C's are just now playing harder without Rondo, who was being petulant?"

Yeah, that's a good question.
Reply Morena
3:22 PM on February 6, 2013 
paul says...
Right on tweet:

Gary Dzen ‏@GlobeGaryDzen
Great point by a reader on Rondo's "petulance": "If some of the C's are just now playing harder without Rondo, who was being petulant?"

Yeah, that's a good question.

That's a very interesting question.
Too bad nobody will give this question the attention and the answer it deserves.
Thanks for your wise answers Paul!! Always interesting to read!!
Reply rcraig617
9:00 PM on February 6, 2013 
I agree with most of what you said but rondo did his little red little red bull tour and organized for the team to workout before training camp even started. Very good piece though.
Reply paul
9:05 PM on February 6, 2013 
Morena says...
That's a very interesting question.
Too bad nobody will give this question the attention and the answer it deserves.
Thanks for your wise answers Paul!! Always interesting to read!!


Morena, I couldn't cope with Rondo withdrawal without friends here to discuss it with!!

Tanguay said today that clearly there is a cloud over the Celtics whenever Rondo is around. What a fascinating thing to say. Well, I want to see Rondo play better, and lead better, but I also want to see Ainge build the team around him. Folks who signed on saying one thing and apparently thinking another? I wouldn't mind seeing them gone. As for Pierce, I'm sick and tired of his 'tude. It's painfully clear to me that he was just never willing to let The Kid take the lead.

But again and again I wonder how Rondo could possibly have thought that his slacking on defense was going to be ok.
Reply paul
9:06 PM on February 6, 2013 
[rcraig617]
I agree with most of what you said but rondo did his little red little red bull tour and organized for the team to workout before training camp even started. Very good piece though.
[/rcraig61)

rcraig, it's just that I thought he really should have focused on basketball and the team last summer. At the time I excused it on the basis of Rondo embracing the psychological and publicity aspects of being a leader, or I tried to. But in retrospect, it seems clear that Rondo got distracted by the trappings of fame.
Reply rcraig617
11:23 PM on February 6, 2013 
paul says...
[rcraig617]
I agree with most of what you said but rondo did his little red little red bull tour and organized for the team to workout before training camp even started. Very good piece though.

Yep. I hate to say it but i hope this injury makes him focus more on basketball and what he can do individually to come back better.
Reply paul
6:40 AM on February 7, 2013 
rcraig617 says...
Yep. I hate to say it but i hope this injury makes him focus more on basketball and what he can do individually to come back better.


I think this is the first season Rondo didn't come back a much better player, and even this year, he was better in some ways. So I guess I should be hopeful. But that slacking on D was so woeful. Just so woeful.