|Posted by paul on July 30, 2013 at 6:50 PM|
It looks like things are finally starting to settle down around Rondo in the Celtics fandom. Danny has effectively asserted in both action and deed that he is rebuilding around Rondo. Brad Stevens has shown in word and deed that considers Rondo to be essentially an equal. Rondo's young teamates speak of him with respect. Sully says that the Cs will not give up because 'we still have Rondo'. Kris Humphries says that he wants to earn Rondo's respect. Early in the summer, it looked to me like Danny was setting up Rondo to be the Fall Guy, but now it looks more like Danny is determined that this team will be Rondo's team. Even in the blogs anti-Rondo craziness seems to be receding, and sensible voices are being heard, at long last. Bob Ryan has been fairly quiet, and ESPN's Forsberg says that Rondo will be named team captain, surely, later this summer.
Is Rondo perfect? No. In fact I think that this is one of the things that infuriates many fans about Rondo. Most great players come into the league fairly well formed. Their games continue to evolve over their careers, but the basic player is there from their first season. Rondo, by contrast, has taken an evolutionary step as a player each year he has been in the league. This was true even last year, in a number of ways, as disappointing a season as it was in other respects. It seems to be very hard for many fans and writers to wrap their minds around the notion that a player whose game is continuing to evolve could ever be a reliable player. It flies in the face of what they have known, for the most part. I suspect that this is particularly true for Boston fans and writers, because they were so spoiled by Larry Bird. When Larry came into the league, he was like Dave Cowens, only he was much better than Dave Cowens, and this was right away. And the thing is, people today forget how great a player Cowens was. Cowens was a truly great player, and in some ways, he changed the game as much as anyone, I would say. Cowens is seen today as a lumbering dufus, but he was a very athletic player, and a very skilled player, with a great understanding of the game as a whole. He was a forerunner of today's versatile big man. He could play anywhere on the floor, on both ends. He didn't particularly like to switch off onto a guard, but he wasn't afraid of them, nor was he afraid at all to bang bodies in the paint. In fact, he did that with a zest that one never sees today. One year he led the team in all major statistical categories. This has very rarely been done. It was a tribute to Cowen's wide-ranging skills. Inside, outside, passing, shooting, defending, rebounding, etc. Cowens had a short career, but it was as brilliant as any career has been, just about. Even so, Bird was better, a lot better, and you could see it all right away.
Compare that to Rondo. If Allen Iverson was The Answer, Rondo is The Question. I guess a lot of folks don't want a question. They want a sure thing. You see this, I think, as the deeper reason behind all the fake reasons haters give for not liking Rondo. They want the next Larry, or the next Lebron, which I suppose accounts for the fixation on Wiggins. I guess I'm made a little different, though. I like a sure thing, but I love a bit of mystery .... and maybe that's partly because I realize that most sure things only become sure things in retrospect. Even Rondo's biggest fans recognize that, for Danny to be able to build another championship team around him, he will have to step up in a number of ways. He will have to recover fully from his injury, and he will have to show that he can play hard more consistently, while also avoiding the injuries that have plagued him over the past several years, starting with 2010-2011's plantar-fascitis. He will have to show that he can score more consistently, and that he can keep defenses honest by shooting more effectively from middle and long distances, while continuing to run the offense and assist at a high rate, but without dominating the ball quite so much. Perhaps most importantly, Rondo will have to lead on the defensive end. Our guard corps has to be the defensive backbone of this team. Rondo has to lead by example, picking and choosing when to roam and when to dig in, when to press and when to loosen up, and so on. If Rondo plays hard on D, the rest of the team will follow, and we may have a backcourt of legendary prowess. But Rondo must also lead vocally on defense, as the player who knows what the other team is running better than they do, as a player who understands the concept of team defense better than anyone. Above all, Rondo must show that he can pick his spots when it comes to creating ruckus, and he must show that he can build an constructive relationship with Stevens, where he does not either kowtow to Stevens, nor run roughshod over Stevens. It must be a partnership.
But I think the defensive end is where we will see it next year, if Rondo is fully recovered and truly ready to lead. I think Shawn and rcraig have also talked about this.