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"IN RONDO WE TRUST"

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Rondology: Role Player?

Posted by paul on March 7, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I've dwelled a lot on the negative implications of the current Celtics win streak for Rondo.  Even though it's true that the Celtics were in an upswing before Rondo went down, which wasn't, however, reflected in their record, it seemed clear that they instantly became a different, and much  better, team without Rondo.  Recently, though, a fairly compelling argument has been made that reflects better on Rondo.  The claim is that, over the past five years, the Celtics always knew how good they could be, that they could beat anyone.  They played down to teams because, on some level, they felt that they had nothing to prove.  The moment Rondo went down, that changed for the first time in five years.  With Rondo, they knew that they could beat anyone.  Without Rondo, they might have believed it, but they didn't know it.  



KG and Doc may have hinted at this.  KG said that while Rondo was there, he did all the cooking, and the rest of the team got used to that.   Now they all had to cook.  Doc mentioned that they played without urgency, until Rondo went down.   With Rondo gone, everyone else on the team knew that they faced a stark choice;  it was time to either pack it in, or step up.  Incredibly, thanks mostly, I would argue, to the leadership of Doc, KG, PP and Bradley, they stepped up en masse.  The transformation of Wilcox could be seen as a kind of microcosm.  Faced with the prospect of being traded away from a team he had come to appreciate, Wilcox faced a stark reaility.  It was time to play all out, to play his best ball.  Almost overnight he became the player we expected this summer.  Everyone stepped up that way, because of the leadership, because of the stark situation, and because they saw opportunity.  With the team's best player and dominant ballhandler gone, everyone else saw a chance to play a bigger role.



I think there is quite a bit of truth to all this.   This team has had a gut level realization that they have to show, on the court, how good they are.  It's like 2008 all over again.  They aren't defending an already gold-plated legend.  They are building it.  



None of that changes what I see as the fact that every game they win is another nail in the coffin of Rondo's Celtics career.   An ESPN article piece today pointed out that Chicago didn't become a different team without Rose, so there is no controversey about Rose coming back.


http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/5-on-5-130306/nba-shape-eastern-conference-playoff-race


I don't think that's true about this Celtics team.  I mean, in a way it's true.  The team we are seeing is, basically, the team we expected to see when the team was put together by Danny this summer.  But this team specificially found itself, found its identity,  upon Rondo's departure.  In fact, I'd say that this team was unable to build it's identity around Rondo, but succeeded in building it around Bradley.  How does Rondo come back into such a  picture?  



'Knowledgeable' fans at Celtics Blog seem to be calling for Rondo to be traded.   If he returns, they seem to think that he should return in a much reduced role, playing largely off the ball at times, no longer controlling and dominating the ball.   I think the most logical idea is that Rondo should be traded.   Unless this team falls apart, something which appears impossible right now, they will make a lot of noise in the playoffs.  I think they can win a championship.  The most important  thing Bradley seems to have is incredible willpower.   He seems to have the 'killer instinct' that even KG doesn't seem to have.  This could drive the Cs to a championship, barring further injuries.  Meanwhile, Rondo's potential as trade material may be damaged by his injury, but he still presumably can bring a lot, because he still may have the potential to be a dominant player.  Just not with the Celtics.  Fans are right that he surely cannot come back unless it's in a much reduced role.  Would he even be willing to try that?



There is an argument to be made  that Rondo might love a reduced role.  As much as Rondo seemed to want to be the leader on the court, and even seemed to demand the role, he never seemed comfortable with the role.  Several times he commented that he never asked to be the leader, didn't see himself as the leader, etc..   As fans, we can't help but project onto players what we think they can be, and remember, coaches and gms are fans too.   Doc and Danny saw so much potential in Rondo.  So did Magic, and Cousy, and Bill Walton.  I saw someone who at times was the best player I ever saw.  A lot of fans may have seen something like that.  We so wanted Rondo to be great.  KG saw it too, and wanted Rondo to be great, or so it seemed.   And Rondo did try to be great.   Maybe he was trying too hard to please other people, to meet their expectations, and hopes.  Maybe he distorted his game in an all-out attempt to be what others wanted him to be.



And then came the howling storms of hate.  That must have been so hard on Rondo.  Here he was, trying to be the great player that people said they wanted him to be, and the more he did, the more the hate came, led by that 'dean' of basketball writers/commentators, Bob Ryan.  For shame, Bob Ryan.  It seems that you helped rip a kid's heart out, a kid busting with talent.  You hurt basketball, it seems to me, and you hurt him, and you damaged your own reputation.



I still think that Rondo is, potentially, a great player.  I've mentioned before that, if I were Danny, I'd have a long conversation with Rondo, maybe even a retreat.  The first thing I'd want to know is how Rondo sees himself as a player.   I wouldn't accept glib answers and put-offs.  Sometimes it just takes being together with someone for a while to get them to open up.  If I were Danny, I'd be betting the future of my team on finding out who Rajon Rondo really is, as a person, and as a basketball player.  Is Rondo the selfish jerk of Hater legend?  Or is he the embodiment of TEAM, as suggested by the Good Rondo legend?    Is he the guy whose mind is constantly boiling over with basketball ideas that we hear about?  Or is he a one-trick pony, obsessed with the idea that being an NBA pg can be just like being a football qb?   Does Rondo has a powerful will, which he is able to impose on the game of basketball, especially under the bright lights, in the heat of the most intense moments?   Or does Rondo shrink when the chips are down?  There are so many questions like these that need answers, real answers, but in a way, the most important question is the most simple:  are you a great player, Rajon Rondo, or are you a role player?    Are you here to change the game of basketball?   Or do you really just like the shoes?



There's no shame in not wanting to be great.   Sometimes, the greatest greatness is just being yourself, isn't it?   What jewel shines brighter than a person just being themselves?  Isn't that the most beautiful thing there is?



If I, as Danny Ainge, decided to build my future around Rondo, regardless of how this season turns out,  I'd require a commitment from him as well, something that would take a tangible form, for starters.  For this Celtics team, the time to put up or shut up came when Rondo went down.  For Rondo, it will come when he returns, but the process begins now.  The difficulties of life are the flames that challenge us, form us, test us, define us, reveal us.   Rondo's career is in a time of difficulty now, on a number of levels:   I think no one can deny that fact.    How will Rondo emerge, and when?  Perhaps not even Rondo can fully answer that question.



But - and I know I'm a broken record - it would speak volumes if Rondo would spend less time basking in Red Bull glory over the summer, and more time working on his game, talking to Doc, working out with Bradley, etc., etc.. There is a time for the trappings of fame, but there is also a time to tend to your craft.

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12 Comments

Reply Franklin
11:13 AM on March 7, 2013 
You got it written down perfectly Paul. This team truly for the first time have something to prove. The urgency is there,and last night was a sign of that. Damn Red Bull Paul!
Reply paul
12:39 PM on March 7, 2013 
Red Bull makes me see red these days, Franklin!
Reply Celticslifer
4:18 PM on March 7, 2013 
I think something about this debate of are they better without him. Rondo had to learn how to work without Ray Allen, and in turn Rondo had more guys around him who could score, and he didn't figure out how to play with them. His defense is no excuse though.
Reply Birdman33
4:21 PM on March 7, 2013 
Rondo won't be moved. I see Rondo becoming his own man next season. This was a year when he got his feet wet at a full blown leadership role.
Reply paul
7:34 PM on March 7, 2013 
Celticslifer says...
I think something about this debate of are they better without him. Rondo had to learn how to work without Ray Allen, and in turn Rondo had more guys around him who could score, and he didn't figure out how to play with them. His defense is no excuse though.


He spent all summer, though, galivanting around instead of figuring out how to work with all these folks. And then the way he refused to adapt his defense to the reality that we didn't have the powerful interior guys we used to have was so frustrating.
Reply paul
7:36 PM on March 7, 2013 
Birdman33 says...
Rondo won't be moved. I see Rondo becoming his own man next season. This was a year when he got his feet wet at a full blown leadership role.


I've thought about that too, Birdman. Being a leader doesn't seem to come that easily to Rondo. He has some difficulty relating to people. But I think he'll figure it out.
Reply rcraig617
11:55 PM on March 7, 2013 
I think when rondo comes back he should play off the ball a little less but that means he needs to become a better spot up shooter. I honestly believe he can shoot he just passes up too many spot up shots. If he could play off the ball he would save energy first off and it would allow paul and kg to run that pick and pop more then they do when rondo is out there with them. It also would allow pierce to isolate more. When rondo is out there and pierce isolates the team ends up rotating until rondo is left open and more often than not rondo will catch the ball and not shoot which allows the defense to reset. I remember in rondo's earlier years he would cut backdoor like how bradley did and get 1 backdoor layup a game atleast. Easy points from spotting up and shooting or cuttitng will help rondo get easier buckets and find a rhythm also. I still think he should be controlling the ball more often than not. One last thing when we get rebounds now most of the team aside from kg if they get the board will take the ball and push with rondo if bradley got the ball he would look for rondo instead of just pushing the ball I think off more rebounds paul,green, lee and bradley should be able to push if rondo doesn't get the board the ball will get up court quicker and rondo will be able to get some buckets running the wing. I think that's one reason why we couldn't score as much on the break earlier in the year with rondo in the time we were looking for him the ball could've been at halfcourt.
Reply rcraig617
11:58 PM on March 7, 2013 
paul says...
I've thought about that too, Birdman. Being a leader doesn't seem to come that easily to Rondo. He has some difficulty relating to people. But I think he'll figure it out.

Rondo's a leader he just does it in ways that the public doesn't see it. Last year when wilcox had his surgery he said rondo talked to him after every game and before and after the surgery. Rondo worked with sullinger after alot of practices this year on the pick and roll. Those are just a couple of things i'm sure there's more things that he does that we don't see. I wouldn't be surprised if he's helping out bradley and encouraging him to shoot the pullup when he comes off the pick.
Reply C'slife
1:13 AM on March 8, 2013 
rcraig617 says...
Rondo's a leader he just does it in ways that the public doesn't see it. Last year when wilcox had his surgery he said rondo talked to him after every game and before and after the surgery. Rondo worked with sullinger after alot of practices this year on the pick and roll. Those are just a couple of things i'm sure there's more things that he does that we don't see. I wouldn't be surprised if he's helping out bradley and encouraging him to shoot the pullup when he comes off the pick.



Good call out on that rcraig617. Doing things as simple as that works..
Reply paul
5:38 AM on March 8, 2013 
rcraig617 says...
Rondo's a leader he just does it in ways that the public doesn't see it. Last year when wilcox had his surgery he said rondo talked to him after every game and before and after the surgery. Rondo worked with sullinger after alot of practices this year on the pick and roll. Those are just a couple of things i'm sure there's more things that he does that we don't see. I wouldn't be surprised if he's helping out bradley and encouraging him to shoot the pullup when he comes off the pick.


Great comment. I've thought a lot about those things, and I've wondered too if Rondo is even now involved with encouraging teammates like Bradley. I also remember Rondo working with Lee, when Lee was struggling.
Reply paul
5:54 AM on March 8, 2013 
rcraig617 says...
I think when rondo comes back he should play off the ball a little less but that means he needs to become a better spot up shooter. I honestly believe he can shoot he just passes up too many spot up shots. If he could play off the ball he would save energy first off and it would allow paul and kg to run that pick and pop more then they do when rondo is out there with them. It also would allow pierce to isolate more. When rondo is out there and pierce isolates the team ends up rotating until rondo is left open and more often than not rondo will catch the ball and not shoot which allows the defense to reset. I remember in rondo's earlier years he would cut backdoor like how bradley did and get 1 backdoor layup a game atleast. Easy points from spotting up and shooting or cuttitng will help rondo get easier buckets and find a rhythm also. I still think he should be controlling the ball more often than not. One last thing when we get rebounds now most of the team aside from kg if they get the board will take the ball and push with rondo if bradley got the ball he would look for rondo instead of just pushing the ball I think off more rebounds paul,green, lee and bradley should be able to push if rondo doesn't get the board the ball will get up court quicker and rondo will be able to get some buckets running the wing. I think that's one reason why we couldn't score as much on the break earlier in the year with rondo in the time we were looking for him the ball could've been at halfcourt.


I strongly agree with almost all of that. I actually think it's important that Rondo play off the ball more too. I noticed a while back that when teammates would try to pass the ball back to Rondo, he would almost always bobble it. That's where his stubbornness can be so self-defeating. He wants so badly to think of himself as being like a football qb. When he passes the ball, that should finish the play in his mind. But that is sooo WRONG Rondo. That's football, not basketball. In basketball, if you don't have the ball, you should be cutting or spotting up, and if the ball swings to you, make something happen.

But I do think Rondo should dominate the ball. Not as much as he has, and he should do more with it when he has it, but he is - in my view - such a talented player that he should almost always be handling the ball the most. The only thing that takes Rondo out of a game is Rondo. As you said, he gets into funks about shooting. He gets into funks about attacking the basket. When he gets into a really bad funk, he accomplishes almost nothing, but he's still dominating the ball!!! That's got to stop. Either he's got to get more in control of his headspace, or he's got to give up the ball when he's not in the right frame of mind and play more off the ball, maybe until he gets going.

I agree that Rondo shouldn't be the sole outlet when we get a rebound off a miss. But I don't mind him being the primary outlet. Where that is hard is that a lot of players maybe don't have enough basketball IQ to figure out the balance there. Hopefully the Cs players can understand it, but never underestimate how stupid human beings can be in group settings.

I always think of one of the office arguments, where some perfectly simple misunderstanding arises, that gets perpetuated and deepened and perpetuated and deepened, even though the basic issue is as simple as anything could possibly be. A simple idea like "look for the best outlet, but prioritize Rondo" can be utterly impossible for a group of people to understand. Or, depending sometimes on 'office' dynamics, it can be very easy for them to understand. Sometimes, those grey areas of understanding are where success and failure lie.
Reply rcraig617
11:21 AM on March 8, 2013 
paul says...
I strongly agree with almost all of that. I actually think it's important that Rondo play off the ball more too. I noticed a while back that when teammates would try to pass the ball back to Rondo, he would almost always bobble it. That's where his stubbornness can be so self-defeating. He wants so badly to think of himself as being like a football qb. When he passes the ball, that should finish the play in his mind. But that is sooo WRONG Rondo. That's football, not basketball. In basketball, if you don't have the ball, you should be cutting or spotting up, and if the ball swings to you, make something happen.

But I do think Rondo should dominate the ball. Not as much as he has, and he should do more with it when he has it, but he is - in my view - such a talented player that he should almost always be handling the ball the most. The only thing that takes Rondo out of a game is Rondo. As you said, he gets into funks about shooting. He gets into funks about attacking the basket. When he gets into a really bad funk, he accomplishes almost nothing, but he's still dominating the ball!!! That's got to stop. Either he's got to get more in control of his headspace, or he's got to give up the ball when he's not in the right frame of mind and play more off the ball, maybe until he gets going.

I agree that Rondo shouldn't be the sole outlet when we get a rebound off a miss. But I don't mind him being the primary outlet. Where that is hard is that a lot of players maybe don't have enough basketball IQ to figure out the balance there. Hopefully the Cs players can understand it, but never underestimate how stupid human beings can be in group settings.

I always think of one of the office arguments, where some perfectly simple misunderstanding arises, that gets perpetuated and deepened and perpetuated and deepened, even though the basic issue is as simple as anything could possibly be. A simple idea like "look for the best outlet, but prioritize Rondo" can be utterly impossible for a group of people to understand. Or, depending sometimes on 'office' dynamics, it can be very easy for them to understand. Sometimes, those grey areas of understanding are where success and failure lie.

I agree that rondo should still have the ball most of the time but I think we should eliminate some of those sets where rondo is there pounding the ball waiting for somebody to come off of a screen and let others do things. It will let us have more options on offense. I totally agree with your thing about rondo being a qb he needs to learn to run the wing because he's not a bad finisher and this isn't football like you said.