|Posted by paul on July 5, 2013 at 6:10 AM|
Shawn has been writing beautiful pieces about the now white hot Rondo situation. Over the last few weeks, Rondo has taken hit after hit in the media, culminating in a vicious piece vomited by Goodman at ESPN. Rondo must have seen this coming; recall that he put out/did a few promo pieces and events just before the crap started hitting the fan. This may have been a smart way for Rondo to preposition himself to try and weather the storm.
Even so, Rondo has taken a savage beating in the media. Interestingly, the blogs seem to have divurged from the more established media here. Most of the blogs seem to be willing to cut Rondo quite a bit of slack, while acknowledging his potential, while continuing to urge Danny to keep shopping him. The difference between this kind of very limited support for Rondo, on one hand, and the savage attacks on the other, seems to be in part a function of age. Most of the writers savaging Rondo seem to be older writers. It's hard to make out what infuriates them so much. Nothing they cite in their articles seems to, well, come anywhere near to explaining it. I'm tempted to say that their behavior verges on abusive.
I recognize that we fans don't see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes, and that the little we do see, together with the little we hear about in specific terms, paints a picture of a Rondo who can be, at times, very beliigerent. For example, I'll not soon forget the nauseating video of Rondo chasing down a cameraman as if to physically attack him, for the seemingly awful crime (in Rondo's eyes) of filming Rondo outside a press conference, rather than inside it. What other NBA team has paid another player to be a kind of hired friend for their budding star, as the Celtics seem to have done when they brought in the 'Rondo Whisperer' in 2012?! There's really no doubt that Rondo can be difficult, to put it rather mildly.
Still, public discussion of Rondo seems wildly over the top at times, and heavily skewed most of the time. It seems all too obvious that, playing in the context of the Big Three, Rondo would have had to be both a superman and a saint not to end up as the scapegoat. He's not the only one whose image has suffered from playing alongside the Three Saints. Remember Big Baby? It seemed like he just couldn't ever do anything right. Bradley is the only one who seems to have been immune the Three Saints' long shadows.
The general atmosphere in the Celtics fandom has been heavily poisoned against Rondo, in my opinion. I see this in the way that it seems to be taken almost as gospel in much of the fandom that point guards cannot lead teams to championships. It's almost taken for gospel that Rondo is a complementary piece (they do love to call players "pieces" and "assets" - I sometimes wonder if they really mean "pieces of assets"...), at best, in a championship buildup, not a guy you can build a championship around, not a superstar, not an mvp quality player. But these notions are simply absurd, for all that they are proffered and handed around like nuggets of eternal, impenetrable wisdom! Rondo's big game performance and playoff performance proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Rondo IS quite precisely a kind of player that you CAN build a championship around. The ridiculously stark contrast between how well the team has done in the playoffs when Rondo has been healthy and how badly they have done when he goes down confirms this.
What's more, Rondo probably cannot be a complementary piece. Most players need a niche to play in. A select few players can play in a niche but can transcend it. A small number of players cannot really play in a niche at all. I would say that Rondo is one of those. If I have a worry about Stevens, it's that he seems to be committed to the idea that each player has to have a job, and that they have to stick to that job. That could be a recipe for disaster with Rondo. I don't know how anyone could think that Rondo is the kind of player that you stick into a role and say 'mind your ps and qs now'.
Also, Rondo has several times already been an MVP candidate. He has already proven that he has that potential. As for Rondo being a superstar, he clearly has many of the trappings of a superstar already. He has been the season leader three times in key statistical categories. He was voted on as a starter to an allstar team. He has a championship ring. He also has something very few other 'superstars' have - a ridiculously impressive cheering section of legends of the game. What he does not have is the support of Celtics media and Celtics fans, and it looks like he may not have the team's support either, in the lockerroom, or in the administrative offices. This summer is so crucial for Rondo, even more so than it is for the Celtics. I hope that it will be, as Shawn has suggested, the clean slate restart that Rondo seems to need. The new coach seems to be someone that Rondo could potentially work well with. The Three Saints, and their long shadows, are gone.
There are several points I have harping on quite a bit. One is that Rondo needs to own up to his faults. I think he should do it publicly. He should acknowledge publicly, perhaps even in a press conference, that he needs to be more mature in order to lead the team. He should also explain why his defense was so bad last year. Some of us 'get it' that Rondo has his own unique style of defensive play, which can be fantastically effective and brilliant, but he simply MUST mix this with an enhanced ability and willingness to dig in defensively, even to extend pressure down the floor, Bradley style. One approach just does not fit all situations. Continued extreme stubborness from Rondo about the way he plays defense will be very bad for us, and for him.
But fans too need to change their ways. It's high time fans, including Rondo's many haters, commit themselves to CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Rarely, I believe, has a player been savaged so much, and so unfairly. The Three Saints and their long shadows are gone. The uber-Saint, Rivers, is also gone. Let's try to get things into perspective a little bit, finally. Rondo is far from perfect, but he has done a lot for this team, enough that he's already been talked about as a potential HOF player himself, enough that he's developed a ridiculous reputation for toughness, determination, and ability to rise to the occasion. Criticize, yes, but constructively. Let's call on him to be a better Rondo. To do otherwise is something like insane. A bundle of talent such as the one Rondo carries is very hard to find, regardless of how high the draft pick you may get by 'tanking' is. If you already have such a talent on your side, to ignore the fact that you have it, and go about looking in nooks and crannies for 'superstars', gazingly hopefully across fields and meadows for the wondrous unicorn, while ignoring the magnificent stallion one has by one's side - it's just so crazy. Some folks want to trade Rondo for beans, hoping they turn out to be magic beans. Why not try to make the most of the magic being we already have?
So please. Please. It's time to take a constructive approach to criticizing Rondo. Many in the fandom and media (and front office too, and even lockerroom, it seems) have had Rondo as their scapegoat for six years. Don't make him the Fall Guy now. From scapegoat straight to fall guy? Isn't that a bit much? Can't even Haters see that?
A lot depends on Brad Stevens. He'll be asked about Rondo today. What will he say? My hope is that Stevens will make it absolutely clear that he sees Rondo as the key guy on this team, and that he will work closely with Rondo. This is the NBA, Brad. If you intend to treat players like cogs in a machine, you shouldn't have stepped up. There is a little understood aspect of the sport of basketball that I think needs to be highlighted and emphasized: we often talk about players as if they serve the coaches and gms and owners. That's not really true. It's really the other way around. Great coaches and GMs, in my view, understand that they serve the players, particulary the great players who define the future of the game. What makes basketball so great is that it is, in the end, a game defined by the kids on the playground, working on their games, trying out different post moves, trying to make the shot silky smooth, etc., trying to find their unique rythm. The players make the game.
The players make the game. Just say that today, Brad. The players make the game. Let the world know that you relish the opportunity to work with a young player, in Rondo, who is also one of the most talented, creative and intelligent players in the game today, a guy loaded with his own ideas.