|Posted on December 27, 2012 at 7:05 AM|
I think Celtics fans are holding onto three things this year, three sources of hope. First, we've seen this team rise up in the playoffs after a disappointing season several times. We know that a slow start doesn't necessarily imply doom. Secondly, we watched as this team was put together over the summer, and we know it was done with a lot of care. Thirdly, we have three signature wins this summer: Philly, OKC and New Jersey. We know we CAN play with top teams.
Now we are facing a top team that is hot. Very hot. And it's led by arguably the best player in the league, or at least best point guard, in Chris Paul, and it's loaded with talent. We should be feeling a sense of hopelessness. We should be expecting a basketball execution. But for one day, at least, we feel optimism. We just won a game where we looked like a real team, even if the opposition was in disarray. We too are loaded with talent, even if a lot of our talent has been misfiring more often than not this season. And we have a player that we believe is the best pg, and maybe the best player in the league, in Rondo.
With Rondo, every season seems to be a voyage into the unknown. Every game is a voyage into the unknown. It's funny to see the fascination that the old time greats have with him. I think he exasperates Barkley. Shaq has played with him, and knows how magical Rondo can be. Magic himself loves Rondo, but constantly wants to push him. Walton is at a loss for words, a rare thing indeed, and calls Rondo simply "beautiful". Rondo is one of those players who reminds you why you love the game. But they all want to see him take the next step. We all want to see him take the next step. It's not something you can quite put your finger on. More shots? Yes. More D? Yes. More aggressiveness? Yes. Less preoccupation with stats? Yes. We are looking for Rondo to be more in command of the game from start to finish, especially when things get crunchy.
That's the funny thing about Rondo. Even as a young player, he demanded, and got, a commanding role on the team. Over the years, as Doc's admiration and trust for Rondo grew, he became the unquestioned pilot of the offense, and the key on defense. But we've seen a paradox grow. Even though Rondo demands, and gets, a commanding role on his team, he often plays passively on both ends. This may be the hardest thing to understand about Rondo. If you are going to demand control of the ball, you really cannot play passively much of the time. Maybe Rondo should play off the ball more. Or maybe he should just stay focused and tuned into the game more. I don't know which. Probably a bit of both things is needed. No one can stay aggressive all the time, but I think we need Rondo to be aggressive more, and we need him to let others, particularly Pierce, control the transition more when Rondo isn't 'feeling it'.
What's incredibly thrilling for Celtics fans is that season after season, Rondo DOES find a way to take 'the next step'. As frustrated as we get at times, we have reason to be confident. Would I trade Rondo for Paul? Hell no. I wouldn't even think of it.
So that's the fourth reason we remain hopeful this year - we have Rondo!