|Posted by paul on September 28, 2013 at 6:45 AM|
I've been teetering this summer. Has Ainge finally committed himself to building around Rondo? Or is the Ainge Express simply idling on the track, waiting for one Rajon Rondo to be hustled aboard? Ainge has made noises that indicate the former ... but we know that we cannot really believe anything Danny says. Let us not ever forget that this man tried to sell us injured Shaq as the cure for the ailment that Danny's own trade had created - no real center. Sheesh. A lot of people bought that one, and I guess they are buying into Danny's commitment to Rondo also. I'm not. I've flirted with buying into it this summer, but I don't think I am, when you come right down to it.
Last year was such a rollercoaster that it's been hard to fully grasp its meaning. At times last year, Rondo was every bit the leader we hoped for. Oddly enough, perhaps, I count towards that some times that others took to exemplify the opposite. I liked Rondo's assist streak and I thought it was good for the team, and that it was his way of establishing a base-line consistency that had been asked for. I also liked it when Rondo went after Humphries. I thought that was an intervention that Red and Larry would have understood. The team was playing soft. Someone needed to light a fire. But in the end, Rondo seemed to lose the team completely. The road trip that began with the loss to the Clippers remains an untold story. I guess what happens in Vegas, or within 500 miles of Vegas, stays in Vegas! When Rondo was injured, there was disappointment, but there also seemed to be something like a sigh of relief, and it wasn't just from the old ones.
We forget about all this, when we look back, because of the way the playoffs turned out. As some had predicted, the playoffs revealed how important Rondo had been to the Celtics all along. He, more than anyone else, was the reason we were a threat to win a championship every year. This wasn't the first time we saw the Cs go from fierce to fainte without Rondo in the playoffs.
My theory, repeated ad nauseum, has been that Rondo lost the team last year because of the way he played defensively. Rondo's haters claim that he is lazy on defense. I think that's nonsense, but he does have an unusual approach that seems to involve sort of floating around, and even away from, his man. As I see it, Rondo's approach to defense can be brilliantly effective, disrupting opposing teams' offenses, but it seems to rely on very stout interior defense, and we really didn't have that last year. Rondo didn't seem to adjust to the need for more perimeter pressure, and bigs ended up constantly scrambling to cover his man. Rondo needed to vary his approach more, but he seemed to be too stubborn to do it, and the rest of the team didn't seem to take it kindly. Even KG unleashed some thinly veiled criticisms of Rondo.
It's been my sense that an early return is important for Rondo, that he needs to reset his role on the team early, before team dynamics start to set. Now we know that that is not going to happen. It seems that Rondo is nowhere near the verge of return. Meanwhile I think this team is developing a core group of young players that doesn't necessarily involve Rondo. Green, Sully and Bradley seem to be the keys. Jeff seems to be ready to break out, but he needs the ball and he needs to be the man, or so it seems. Bradley? I think people are really underestimating him. Yes, he has some glaring weaknesses as a pg, but he's also proven himself to be someone with tremendous determination. I think he will surprise, and having Stevens as a coach should help. Stevens obviously loves this kid, and I think his comments about Rondo are plainly more pro forma. Bradley is so scrappy, tough, and smart too. I think he'll thrive as a pg with Stevens' tutelage.
I feel fairly sure now that by the time Rondo returns, the core group will be developing in a pretty solid way. How does Rondo work into that. It will be like starting his career over. I really don't see Rondo being grafted in, unless the young core just plays horrible, especially Bradley. It will be interesting to see if Rondo is named sole captain. My guess is that he and Green will be named captains, which will not bode well.
So I think I'm ready to make a prediction. I'll probably change my mind tomorrow! I think that if Rondo was going to stay, he was going to have to establish himself as the team leader right away. That was going to be a tall order even if Rondo was recovering very fast, and now that it looks like his recovery is not going to be particularly fast, that it's certainly not going to be a Peterson story, I think it's close to impossible. I think Rondo will be brought back to show good recovery and then traded. His trade value may not be what Ainge would really like, but I think some of the Haters forget that there are a number of teams out there who seem to be lining up for him. I think the Kings can be added to the list now. Maybe LA. Maybe Houston. Maybe Detroit. Maybe the Knicks. Maybe some other teams. Maybe Indiana. The deals could be tricky and might involve some other teams - Indiana, for example, is deep precisely where we are deep - but I think there are going to be a number of teams looking to make a deal for Rondo if he looks like he is in good health. The Haters question this, but there's no question at all that Rondo can be a championship difference maker, and also that he is possibly the ideal pg to pair with a high scorer or a top big man. I'm pretty sure that the market for Rondo will heat up in a big way come next year's deadline, and I'm almost certain Danny will make a move.