|Posted by paul on September 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM|
One fondly, and foolishly, as it turned out, hoped that the Rondo debates had been at least partially settled last year. For most of the summer, the haters were quiet. Presumably they were shut down, somewhat, by the playoffs last year. Rondo pretty much played Lebron James to a standstill. That rock-hard chunk of reality was hard for haters to swallow. Then the Allen Affair happened. As much as the haters wanted to jump on the chance Ray gave them to assault Rondo's reputation, it was hard for them to do it without looking as traitorous as 'Jesus' looked. So they bided their time.
Then came the ESPN rankings. It was like permission. Rondo was ranked twelfth, lower than many of us probably expected, yet debates settled into the familiar pattern; was Rondo ranked too high? Rondo 'defenders' said that 12th was just right. Despite Rondo's many glaring faults, his ability to rise to the occasion could not be discounted. Others poo poo'd that. Rondo, they said, was too inconsistent to take seriously, and as always they claimed that his team's successes were due to others, primarily Garnett
In a way, this ranking and resultant hate-fest is just as well. I think it will give Rondo a lot of motivation. Doc and Danny both stepped up to the plate right away and pointed out for Rondo where he needs to improve. Danny said that he has to be dominant, no longer deferring to the Holy Vets. Doc said that Rondo needs to be more consistent. I'll go them one better. Both are right, but Rondo also needs to step up his defensive play. This is the single most important thing. Yeah, I'm a broken record on this. I don't care. It's that important. If Rondo steps up his defense, as we know he will, the rest of the league won't know what hit them. This team will crush opponents, game after game, and Rondo's whole game will come together, and there will be no doubt.
I think Rondo established himself as a top five player last year. According to projected MVP results at ESPN, he's already top four (one of four candidates given pre-season MVP votes). According to MVP results last year, Rondo was top 8. Based on his performance against the Heat, he just might be top two. I think he's one step away from being the best player in the league. But the thing is, I guess he may never have the mega-stats to 'prove' this. A lot of Rondo's game revolves around the way he inspires and leads those around him.
So, top ten at least. I guess I should cite a bunch of 'advanced stats' though, if I want to be taken seriously. But I would ask, by whom? The 'experts' live in some kind hermetically sealed world of 'knowledge'. They spin out their consenses, and everyone agrees to join into the group-think, and thus 'truth' is born.
I thought Ainge was right to point to the way Rondo stepped up and won Sixers Game Seven for us last year, after Pierce fouled out, as a key moment. It was the moment where Rondo finally stopped deferring. But, unfortunately, deferential Rondo returned in the second half of Heat Game Six, and the team went down to historic defeat. Pierce is a HOF great player. Same is true for Garnett. Both players probably know more than anyone else in the league how to still be great as their bodies age. But Rondo must stop deferring. I think Ainge put it on the line as clearly as it can be done. Rondo is expected to dominate consistently now. Nothing less will be acceptable. The cat is waaaay out of the bag now, Rondo. We all know without a doubt how great a player you really are. Even the haters grudgingly admit to Rondo's talent, though they twist this into an argument against him, even as Rondo has stepped up his game every year, and his level of responsibility along with that.
The thing is, it all begins on defense this year. Defense is the key. Haters, and even defenders dwell on Rondo's shooting woes. Yes he needs to improve there, but it isn't the key area. Defense is.
As for who is the best player on the Celtics, I suggest that the haters should ask KG. I'd be very surprised if he even bothered to answer.