|Posted on July 8, 2013 at 7:10 PM|
It was great to see today that Rondo spoke out publicly through his agent to express his strong desire to stay with the Celtics and his enthusiasm for working with Stevens and being a leader for the team...
His agent Bill Duffy told CSNNE.com that his client has no plans of asking for a trade, adding that Rondo is looking forward to working with new C's coach Brad Stevens.
"They (Rondo and Stevens) had a good conversation," Duffy told CSNNE.com. "Brad said that he wants to learn from Rajon, and they're both two pretty smart guys. They both have the same agenda. I think it'll be fine."
And Rondo, according to Duffy, is looking forward to getting to know Stevens a little better.
"He understands this is a great opportunity for him to assert his individual leadership," Duffy said. "So he has been mentored by some Hall of Fame guys now ... He has the opportunity to lead himself now and he relishes that opportunity."
Despite lowered expectations for the C's, Rondo's competitive drive will still push him and, to some degree, his teammates.
"He'll embrace this opportunity," Duffy said. "The question is, are the other players with him ready to be challenged the way he's going to challenge them?"
It's really quite an aggressive statement from Rondo, isn't it? He's saying, if I get the meaning, that he expects to run the show to a significant extent, that he expects strong and mutual communication with Stevens, and that he expects his teammates to respect his leadership. I think all this points to what we see more and more clearly did not happen last year. Last year the team seemed to turn against Rondo's leadership, never really acknowleding him as their leader in the first place, and Doc did not seem to make a real effort to rebuild the offense with Rondo's talents and the talents of the incoming players in mind. Rondo seems to be demanding that all that change this coming season.
I respect it that Rondo is making these demands. I think that he absolutely should. I find it bizarre that so many talking heads, bloggers and commenters seem to continue to talk about Rondo as a complementary player, some kind of niche player, questioning whether he is someone you can build a championship team around. This is all utter raving nonsense!!! Rondo is a guy who has driven his team deep into the playoffs over and over again with triple double or near triple double AVERAGES. On offense, Rondo's authoritative ways are clear, and it's clear that the defense's response to his movements on the floor open things up for the rest of the team, IF the rest of the team is aware and moving in response to what he does. Imagine Rondo probing the offense and then cutting to the lane while Olynyk sets up for a three and Green flashes to the basket. This could be effective offense. On defense, Rondo is famous for knowing all the opponents' plays and his 'free safety' style implies overseeing what the opposing offense is doing, directing the defense where necessary and making moves to disrupt. Rondo's game is really predicated on being his team's leader and key player.
The Celtics may choose not to build around Rondo. His performance last year raised a lot of questions about his leadership ability. It would be understandable if Danny Ainge decided to cut bait and 'cash in' Rondo for rebuilding assets. There seem to be, suddenly, some strongly interested teams, such as Houston and Detroit, that seem to be considering making tempting offers. I hope Danny doesn't go for any such offers. To me it's folly, when you have a player whose best seems to be somewhere between superstar and transformational, to go desperately searching for someone to build around. You have that person. Now let's figure out how to really make it all work.
And some of that has to come back to Rondo. There seems to be a rather unpleasant elephant getting bigger all the time in the world of Rondo-dom. Those who are not Haters surely appreciate how effective and disruptive to the other team Rondo's floaty defense can be, but we've also seen a disturbing trend for other teams to go straight at Rondo, knowing that he does not seem to be willing or able to dig in defensively. Nor does he seem willing, or able, to extend the floor for the opposing offense by pressuring the advance of the ball. Obviously we do not want Rondo playing defense the same way Bradley does. It would exhaust Rondo. It would foul him out of games. It would waste his unique defensive talents he has due to his length and floor vision. What is needed is some sort of balance between Rondo's floaty approach to defense and Bradley's 'honey badger' style. Shawn mentioned that he'd like to see Rondo win DPOY. I'd like to see that too, and I think it will happen if Rondo can find the right balance between his 'free safety' defense and a more dug in approach.
I think it was painfully clear last year that, setting aside the difficulties that Rondo had establishing his authority in the presence of the Big Three and Rivers, all of whom tended to treat him as a kid (and I don't think Terry helped with that), it was Rondo's poor man-to-man defense that cost him the team's respect. I'm sure we all remember that at one point last year, Bradley even dissed Rondo's defense on Twitter! Dissed on Twitter by your teammate. Wow. That's telling. It suggests me that there were ringleaders in the lockerroom encouraging disrespect for Rondo, and I don't mean just the newcomers either. But I think it also makes it clear why Rondo couldn't get the team to follow his lead.
So I'm disappointed not to see Rondo acknowledging that he needs to step it up himself next year, especially on the defensive end. A steady diet of that matador defense we saw so much of in recent years, especially last year, will surely destroy any attempts Rondo makes to lead the team, and will surely earn Rondo a seat on the Ainge Express. I wonder sometimes how much worry over a possible return of plantar fasciitis affects Rondo, maybe especially on defense. I can say from experience that it is an ailment that once experienced is not easily forgotten. It's an ailment that seems to punish you for your attempts to hustle and push your body's limits. If there are such concerns in Rondo's head, I hope they can be addressed through physical therapy/flexibility training or in some other way, as I think the doorway to Rondo's future lies through what for him has been a bit of a valley of darkness recently - the land of Defense. Defense defense defense. The guards are going to have to be the defensive powerhouse of this team going forward. They should have been so last season. Let's bury the painful memory of Rono No D, amidst the rise of RonDo, Big D!