| Posted by paul on January 19, 2013 at 9:20 AM
I do sometimes agree with Bob Ryan. Last night not only praised Sullinger, but he also compared Sully to his beloved Dave Cowens (only in respect to rookie fouls called, but more was implied).
I think it's a good comparison. Like Cowens, Sullinger is on the small side, but also like Cowens, he seems to have quite a nose for pivot action. Of course Ryan goes on to take a shot at Rondo, saying that the Rondo we saw last night was 'national tv Rondo', and suggesting that Rondo's 30 points were the reason Sully didn't score more. I guess each and every Celtics topic is a chance to knock Rondo.
Part of the fun of a big game from Rondo is watching the media people choke on their bitterness. Of course, many of their concerns are shared by Rondo fans, but just as it's important to call on Rondo - as our best player and as a guy who demands control of the ball - to take responsibility for the team, and just as it's justified to call Rondo out when he fails to do so (eg. the Hornets game), it's appropriate to give credit and appreciation when Rondo does what his critics ask. Last night, he took responsibility like Larry Bird. We need him to do that more consistently. But it's always a Catch-22 for Rondo with his media critics. If he scores a lot, he was hogging the ball too much. If he doesn't score much, he wasn't aggressive.
What does it mean to ask Rondo to be "aggressive" anyway? It's often assumed that this is the same as asking him to score a lot. Sure, playing aggressively does correlate with scoring to some extent, but really, for a playmaker like Rondo, scoring should in some ways be really just a means to an end. A lot of the reason for a playmaker to score is to break down the defense and open things up for teammates. Also, a lot of playing aggressively has to do with what you do with the ball when not shooting, and what you do without the ball. A player who is constantly thinking in terms of breaking down the opposing defense (or offense) is playing aggressively. Chris Paul gave a demo of aggressive play in the Celtics/Clippers fiasco. He didn't score much in that game, but every move he made sent shockwaves through the Celtics' defense.
The sense of responsibility Rondo showed last night, and the aggressiveness it seemed to inspire him to, are what we need to see consistently from our best and most important player. But even if we have that, a huge question remains for both Rondo and Doc; why is our offense often so anemic, even if Rondo is playing well? These two guys are supposed to be two of the smartest and most creative minds in the game. Isn't it time we started demanding that they figure out some solutions, especially since part of the solution seems obvious? When Rondo walks the ball up, then pounds it at the top of the circle while a play is being run, only to pass off to the designated shooter, it's more football than basketball. See how that's like a qb standing in the pocket waiting for the play to run and then checking off his receivers?
It's time for Doc Rivers to stop idolizing Bill Belicek, and for Rondo to stop trying to relive his glory days as an aspiring footballer. Basketball is a different game from football, guys. A football team aspires to be like a machine. It runs one play at a time, and the play either works or doesn't work. Everyone talks constantly about "execution". Sound familiar? Who else constantly talks about "execution"? Yes, Doc and Rondo. Basketball is completely different. Yes, sets are becoming more and more complicated, as are defenses, but basketball remains a game of spontaneity, a game of creativity, where a set is ultimately just a gateway to making-it-up-as-you-go. Come on guys. Come on Doc and Rondo. Please remember your inner playground baller. No one wants to see playground ball on an NBA court, but these Celtics certainly need some of the spiritedness and creativity of playground ball.