|Posted by paul on June 11, 2013 at 1:30 AM|
What should we expect after a weird season? I guess we should expect a weird offseason, and so far, that's what we've gotten. Supposedly Rondo's rehab is going very well, though one hasn't heard anything about it for a while, and that's worrisome. KG is taking his time to make a decision about coming back for another season, which makes sense, and at least he's not talking through 'sources' through the media, like some others like to do, but one hears that he may not be getting surgery, which might be worrisome, if it means that he's doesn't need it because he's done with the rigors of NBA basketball. Pierce seems to be indulging in some sort of passive aggressive mind trip, making comments about how it's all up to Danny - as if he had no part in this process - and seemingly making noises through 'sources' about the terrible state of doom and gloom he's in because he knows he's about to get axed from the Cs (as if he had no part in this drama whatsoever). And then there's Doc.
What is up with Doc? Didn't he sign a huge contract a couple of years ago that pretty much staked out the future of the Celtics as his territory? Did he have his fingers crossed when he signed it? When the 2012-2013 season ended, it sounded like Doc just needed to do a little routine gas-tank checking, after a bit of recovery time, but as the weeks drag on, and reports from 'sources' on Doc's mind-set seem to define a more and more ominous trend, it's beginning to seem like Doc is either doing some very serious soul-searching, or else he's trying to wriggle his way out of the Celtics' future. What's going on, Doc?
It seems that fans are getting a bit sick of all this. I know I am. Rondo seems to be making a plea for Doc to stay, stating that he doesn't want to play for another coach…
Or is it just clever marketing, with Rondo trying to cover himself against the backlash that is sure to hit him hard if Doc leaves? If Rondo took the lion's share of the blame for Allen leaving, just imagine the level of blame he'll get if Doc leaves! Whatever else Rondo is, he's very clever about marketing. That's one thing both his fans and haters can probably agree on. I think it would be exactly like Rondo to be determined to get out ahead of the backlash this time, and not to be caught unprepared as he seemed to be when the Allen backlash hit. Won't do any good, though, Rondo, if that's what you are up to. The Haters will tear your head off no matter what.
What strikes me the most as this mess unfolds is that, apart from Danny, no one seems to be making any effort to talk about solutions. Of course, we don't know what is going on behind the scenes. One would like to think that long conversations are going on amongst Danny, Doc, Rondo, KG and Pierce, where anything and everything is getting laid out on the table. One would like to think that the air is getting cleared, and ideas are getting hatched, strategies are being devised and a bright Celtics future is taking shape amongst some of the greatest minds the game has to offer. Unfortunately, I don't get the impression that much of that is going on at all. What seems to be happening strikes me more like the opening moves in a massive Blame Game.
Rondo has already gotten a lion's share of the blame for what happened this year, and for the Celtics' general failure to repeat as champions. Just last night some writer on Twitter was blaming the Rondo Sag for Celtics playoff failures in recent years. But the way the playoffs ended this year may have begun to change the tide of public opinion in Rondo's favor. The 2012-2013 season proved that Rondo has not established himself as a leader that other players will follow, but the post-season established a contrasting pattern that is now hard to miss. When Rondo is healthy, the Celtics drive deep into the playoffs and they go out hard. When Rondo is hurt, the Celtics get taken out quick, and, without Rondo, they aren't even a tough out. Haters won't admit it, but those who claim that Rondo isn't a guy you can build a championship around have been proven wrong. He is exactly the kind of player you can build a championship around. He's flawed, but the right stuff he has is really really right stuff.
I say that, but even I have to admit that my faith in Rondo was deeply shaken over the course of this last season. I expected Rondo to raise his defensive play in 2012-2013, but the exact opposite happened. What a mess that turned into. I think we all understand that Rondo can't be SuperMan every night, but can he be a leader at all, and can he be someone who plays consistently top notch basketball? The real question is, does he WANT those things. Does he want to take his game to the 'next level'? Last year Rondo was knocking on the door of superstardom, but his game stumbled on the threshold. Will he come back strong? This isn't just a question about his physical recovery. It's more importantly a question about the way reaction to adversity and setbacks reveals a lot about a person's true priorities. I couldn't blame Rondo if taking his game to the 'next level' wasn't really what his heart is set on. I'd be wicked disappointed though.
The way I see things, Doc is the one who should be facing the toughest questions right now. Looking back on 2012-2013, isn't it clear that this team's biggest problem, injuries aside (and let's face it, every team has injuries every year), was that it came into the season woefully unprepared? Some of that was inevitable, given the changeover in personnel that happened over this summer, but even so, this never looked like a team that was ready, or even like a team that had a plan, it seems to me. When they played their best, it was more or less a glorified version of pickup basketball, wasn't it? I don't understand why Doc continues to get a free pass. We always play great D, but you can thank KG for that. Our offense has been worse every year since 2008. Our rebounding is atrocious. Doc seems to be allergic to rebounds in particular, to post play in general, and to young players most of the time. But only today did I finally realize what probably bugs me the most about Doc.
Can Doc design an offense? I don't think he can. We know he can design great plays. No one is better at that. But an offense is more than a bunch of good plays. There has to be a vision of some kind. There has to be an inspiration. I don't think Doc has that.
I've been having a fantasy about Phil Jackson coaching the Cs. It's not that I like Phil Jackson, and I know it would probably be a particularly terrible idea now that Jackson is old and crazy, but what I find attractive about Jackson is that he seems to be one coach who has a knack for being able to work with exceptional talents, and he seems to be able to build a team around an exceptional talent. I think most coaches are threatened by exceptional talents, and even if they aren't, they don't have the imagination to 'see' where that particular player's peculiar gifts could lead. Most coaches know a certain way of doing things, and that's it. I believe that what makes a truly great player great is that they 'see' the future of the game. I think Rondo has that ability. It takes an extremely rare coach to be able to see what a great player sees.
If I were Phil Jackson, I'd want to work with someone like Rondo. I'd look at the way the Celtics play basketball, and I'd marvel at the profligate way they seem to waste the talents of their best player. As I've said many times before, Rondo reminds me of Bobby Orr, because of his ability to, it seems, get inside the heads of the entire opposing team. On one play this past year, as I recall it, Rondo was heading to the basket on a breakaway and he managed to confuse the one player between him and the basket by pretending to pass to someone spotted up at the three point line. How ridiculous is that? The defender got so worried about Rondo passing to the a three point shooter that he gave up a layup to Rondo! To the advanced stat worshippers, and to the old-schoolers, I guess that's just a weird play, or maybe a gimmick. Such folks complain about Rondo's "flashy" play. They don't seem to get it. Rondo draws other players into his world, into his world of basketball. KG gets it. For teammates who get it, it can be a joy. For opponents, it can be a nightmare. Rondo is a point guard who backs a center into the basket and then hits a horizontal skyhook on him. Horizontal skyhook? Welcome to Rondo's world of basketball. It's a bit like Pee Wee's world of basketball sometimes. Don't be fooled by that. The most important thing is that Rondo is a player who would rather set a teammate up for a basket than score himself, who loves to deflect a ball on defense so that another teammate gets a steal; he loves the team game and he's got the talent to take it places we haven't seen before.
Is Rondo a safe bet going forward? Of course not. We don't know if his knee will fully recover, and more importantly, we do not know if he truly is ready to take the 'next step'. But I think it would be foolhardy for the Celtics not to take that bet. If I were Danny, my first decision this offseason, would be gut-wrenching, because of Rondo's many problems in 2012-2013, but still easy; start with Rondo and build around him. If Doc and Pierce want to go all in with that plan, fine. That's preferable. As Danny I'd say, welcome aboard guys, but let's see your ideas for how things are going to be different going forward. If Doc and PP don't want to join the Rondo Express, or don't have any ideas about how to make things better, it's time to move on. If KG won't stay, fine, but try to persuade him to stay on the train. I think KG might stay. I think he's intrigued by Rondo World.
The main thing is, start with Rondo and build from there.