|Posted by paul on March 11, 2013 at 5:50 AM|
Well, the Oracle has spoken. Bob Ryan has assessed the post-Rondo Celtics and has arrived at some unsurprising omens: Avery Bradley is a that rarity,True Celtic; Rondo is that rarity, the selfish assister; the Celtics are better off without Rondo and there is a future for Rondo with the Celtics only if he realizes that everything that went wrong was his fault, and if he consequently makes 'major changes' in his game (turns into Avery Bradley?!).
Interestingly, Ryan tries to claim, in this article, that he's not a Hater, just an honest critic. Why even go there, Bob? Do you really think anyone is going to believe you? Ryan avers that he loves aspects of Rondo's game and then - as is usual in such cases - goes on to damn Rondo with faint praise, basically saying that Rondo is all flash and no substance. Speaking of substance, there's not much point in going much further into the 'substance' of Ryan's article, especially since I can't quote it, due to the precious Boston Globe's pay-to-read wall. Isn't it amazing that these dinomedia think the crap they put out is worth paying for?!! If newspapers hadn't spent the nineties stripping their newsrooms, they wouldn't have spent the last decade losing their audience...
Ah well, that's a topic for another time. But do you guys at the Globe seriously want me to pay to hear what Bob Ryan has to say?
Basically Ryan goes over the same tired old stuff we've seen over and over. Rondo is bad at defense. Rondo is a selfish assister. Rondo is moody. Ryan wants to say that Rondo is a diva, but if he did that, it would be the same as admitting that he's a Hater, and he wants to (barely) avoid that, so he avoids the word. Barely.
The thing is, it would be harder for guys like Ryan to sell their outrageous Rondo caricatures, if Rondo hadn't turned into something of a caricature of himself this season, turning up the volume on some of his worst idiosyncracies, such as his patented turnstile defense (which had its own rationales, but certainly didn't have them this season), his pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-twenty-seconds approach to running the offense, etc.. Now we shouldn't forget that the Rondo we saw this season stepped up in numerous ways. He had few no-show games, even if the one really bad one he had was a horrid effort on national tv in perhaps the early season's key game, against the Clippers. During the early part of the season, his play was consistent, and the team had a winning record, despite personnel upheavals and the poor performances of many of his teammates. As the team's designated leader, Rondo attempted to be responsible to the media, and also tried to carry the team on the court when it seemed to need him to do so - this may have helped cause his injury. Even Rondo's season low-point, the fight with Kris Humphries that ended his assist streak, was an attempt to lead, though few recognized this at the time. The team was clearly playing soft, so soft that even KG was playing soft, and Rondo did what a leader should do by calling attention to this fact and attempting to snap the team out of it. Rondo did enough right this season to earn a major step up towards superstar status, a starting role at the all star game, but even so, the idiosyncracies of his game began to eat up his game. In the end, it all seemed to come down to stubbornness. Rondo doesn't always seem to be able to figure out what to be stubborn over, and when. As the season wore on and the pressure on Rondo intensified - much of it very unfair pressure, coming from the likes of Ryan - Rondo seemed to stiffen his back in the wrong ways. The psychology behind this is surely understandable. As Rondo felt the season slipping out of his hands, he presumably tried to increase his sense of control, when what was needed was more like the opposite. Rondo needed to loosen his grip on the offense, and change his ways on defense.
And maybe he would have, had he not been injured. We can't know what adjustments he might have made. A few changes would have given the Cs a big three game win streak going into Miami, instead of a big three game losing streak.
Ryan is right to point out that Bradley has proven to be immensely important to the Celtics. He also points out, rightly, that Bradley is turning into an important offensive player, not just a defensive specialist. Ryan points out, as well, that because the Celtics lack a powerful defensive interior, it's particulary important for guards to apply defensive pressure. I think it's quite interesting that Ryan neglects to point out that there is a reason why the Cs lack defensive presence inside (thanks Danny!), or that this lack might have hurt Rondo's game, while putting a premium on Bradley's particular talents. It's important for Ryan not to make this kind of admission, I'd say, because it would tend to point in the direction of everything that went wrong not being all Rondo's fault, and that's precisely the direction Ryan doesn't want to go in. He ends the article declaring that Rondo must revamp his game this summer, and that to do this he has to accept responsibility for the team's shortcomings early this season, and - of course - Ryan can't let things go without making it clear that he things Rondo will do no such thing.
Nor should he. Yes, of course Rondo needs to make major changes in his game, but clearly he's not going to turn into Avery Bradley, as Ryan seems to suggest, nor should he. We need Rondo to stay Rondo. The changes that need to happen in his game should make him more Rondo, not less. Rondo got into some pretty bad ruts, which hurt his game and hurt the team. This can happen to anyone, especially to anyone under relentless and unfair pressure from the media. And he can't fix what went wrong all by himself, because it certainly wasn't all his fault. Even Doc and the team have admitted this, indirectly, even though virtually no one in the media or blogiverse seems to have picked up on that. How can it possibly have been all Rondo's fault that there didn't seem to be any real plan for how to work in all the new players? How can it possibly have been all Rondo's fault that so many guys played with so much less urgency and apparent effort before Rondo went out, including KG and PP (not just the new guys)? A bunch of the guys appeared to blame Rondo for their less-than-stellar early season performances, suggesting that he controlled the ball too much. They all knew perfectly well coming into this season that Rondo was a ball-dominant point guard. Did they then feel no responsibility to work into that? And if they felt no such responsibility, or little, whose fault was that? Were there voices in the lockerroom carping at Rondo from the early going? As I recall, rumors early in the season suggested such dissension in the lockerroom.
I'm not suggesting that Rondo should deflect blame. I said this summer that Rondo needed to lead the team with a return to defensive intensity, and I think the season has proven me right. Rondo botched that, and then the season, under his leadership, unraveled from there. Many of Rondo's staunchest fans have, I think, been his strongest critics. We hear that Doc and Rondo are basketball geniuses. What excuse can they possibly have for apparently not having worked together over the summer to develop a revamped offensive plan for this revamped team? But there is no way Rondo can successfully come back to this team, it seems to me, as a role player, nor can he successfully come back if all the blame for what went wrong this season is laid at his doorstep. All the players, and Doc, have to share the blame, or it won't be possible to go forward with Rondo. What, is he supposed to crawl back into training camp with his tail between his legs? And does anyone really believe that he should come back as a role player?
Things just don't work out sometimes. I really think that Bradley and Rondo could be a great backcourt team, but then again, the way Bradley has taken over leadership on the team, and the way Lee has stepped up, makes one wonder how Rondo could fit back in. The way Green has flourished in Rondo's absence, and Green's dissatisfaction with how he was being used when Rondo was here, make one wonder how those two can fit together in the future. Ditto for Bass. And then there's Pierce. Probably I'm wrong, but for years now it has seemed to me that Pierce and Rondo play together brilliantly at times, but much of the time, they just can't seem to find a way to share control over the team. When they've clicked, it's been beautiful to see, but the same was true with Allen and Rondo.
Rondo really does need to rethink his game, but so do the others. Doc was talking about Bradley bringing the ball up and Rondo on the wing. If what he is envisioning is a faster, more flexible attack, I'm all for it, but if he means taking the ball out of Rondo's hands, I don't get it. A more flexible approach, with less slowing the game down, and less ball-pounding, would be good for Rondo and for the team, but Rondo should be the guy running the offense, generally. Can the team meet Rondo halfway? Will Rondo soul-search and meet them halfway? The way I see it, if there is a way forward, that is it. Everyone needs to come halfway.