|Posted by paul on January 30, 2013 at 9:05 AM|
An era has ended in Boston Celtics history. No, not the Big Three era. I don't think that will really end until KG and PP retire. No, the Rondo era has ended - before it has really begun. It's funny, in a way, to see the Haters enjoying the same enthusiasm and optimism Rondo fans felt this summer. Ah, how the Wheel of Fortune turns. Their hopes too could crumble if Pierce continues to be a turnover machine, or if KG goes down, or if Sully turns out not to be quite as NBA ready as they think he is. But the worm will turn, the dog will have its day, and Haters are in ascendancy now. Mazz and Felger, your hour has come. Bob Ryan, it's your turn to shine. Dan Shaughnasty, fire up your typewriter. Hardball is back.
In a way, I understand where the Haters are coming from. Dave Cowens formed my views on basketball; he pioneered the phrase "Hardball" when he was coaching the Hornets, back in the eighties or nineties. Watching Rondo play Magic Turnstile defense has nauseated that part of me, the part of me nurtured by Dave Cowens and Larry Bird. I've loved the way Avery Bradley and Sullinger have piled up blue collar credentials.
But I love players like Bob Cousy and Nate Archibald and Isiah Thomas too. The way I've seen it, and continue to see it, the difference between the Haters and Rondo fans is that Rondo fans mostly aren't blind to his faults, but the Haters appear to be nearly blind to his virtue. If Rondo makes a fancy pass, they accuse him of elevating style over substance. Well, setting aside questions of form vs. function, how about if we play that game with every player? Look at KG, always prancing around like the badest MF since Leroy Brown; everyone knows he hates to mix it up in the paint! Don't get me wrong, now: I love KG. I'm just asking that we stop playing the double standard game when it comes to Rondo, where every possible criticism of Rondo is not only true without any reservation, without any possible counterargument, but also impugns him as both a basketball player and a person.
Of course, part of the reason KG doesn't like to operate in the paint is that he's not the sturdiest seven footer in the game, by far, which matters if you want to avoid injury, and - more importantly - he has found that he can use his combination of height and quickness to amazing advantage a bit further towards the perimeter. His prancing is, of course, a lot about motivating himself while trying to take his opponents' heads out of the game. There is method to his madness.
There is plenty of method to Rondo's madness too, but you'd never know it to hear the Haters. They rail endlessly against Rondo's turnstyle D and constant gambling, and they attribute it soley to a thirst for stats. In their eyes, everything about Rondo comes down to that sole motivation. It's really quite incredible. They really seem to think that Rondo doesn't care about anything other than his stats. They reduce this complex human being to that single motivation. But, of course, when Rondo is really on his game, he's one of the most disruptive defenders in the game. He can handle almost anyone one-on-one, but he's also brilliant at wandering the interior of an opponent's offense, deflecting balls, double-teaming and wreaking havoc. Funny how Haters don't seem to like to talk about that aspect of Rondo's defensive play.
Interestingly too, Haters love to point out that the rest of the team plays better when Rondo's not there, but they don't seem to think that this is any reason to criticize other folks on the team for their poor play when Rondo is there. In their eyes, Rondo is solely responsible. It's interesting how double standards work. When the team plays well, they claim that it's nothing to do with Rondo, but when the team plays badly, it's all Rondo's fault.
Interesting too how everyone gave Bradley a pass when he tweeted a taunt against Rondo. Had Rondo done that ...!!!!!? Just imagine if Rondo had tweeted some taunt against Pierce after he twice bobbled the Knicks game away. Sometimes double standards tell you a lot.
It's gotten so crazy that even when Rondo does something good, it's immediately turned into further evidence of how bad he is. Did Rondo get twenty assists? He's selfish. Did Rondo have a triple double? You can't build around him. Did Rondo get 5 steals? He's reckless. Did Rondo shut down his man? Shows how important KG is.
This team had to change direction, and perhaps because everyone vacillated, karma seems to have stepped in. A new era has come. Avery Bradley is the face of that new era. In the end, leadership is a social thing. I don't think Rondo's teammates hate him. I think one or two even like him. KG seems to love him. But they hate playing with him, it seems. Bradley may be a cloaked barracuda, judging by his Rondo taunt, and by the way he tried to walk it back, but he plays hard on D. If he keeps that up, it should give him a pretty strong base of respect with his teammates, and most likely he can build from there.
Rondo, on the other hand, seems to have lost his teammates' respect. Or maybe the real story is uglier than that. Maybe some of the new guys saw vulnerability in Rondo and thought that they could rise up if he fell down. Don't assume that didn't happen. Sports, like the rest of the world, can be cut-throat. Whatever the 'real' story, or stories, Rondo now enters what looks to be at least a six-month period of recovery.
Even if one could assume that Rondo will come back, in six months, the same player he is now, the team will be a completely different team, one way or another. If the team thrives without him, Rondo may not even be welcome back, or may have to try to fight his way onto a team that has no real role for him. If the team doesn't thrive without Rondo, Ainge and co. will have to make decisions about the future that don't necessarily involve Rondo centrally. We really can't even be sure how long it will take for Rondo to come back, and whether he will be fully recovered when he does return. He may never be the same, physically, or it may take several years for him to return to form, and by then his prime may have passed its peak. Already Rondo was struggling to keep up with younger, faster, quicker, more explosive guards. Guys like Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings and Kyrie Irving were torching him. The young lions will only be younger, faster and more explosive when Rondo comes back. If he comes back the same player, without improving the fundamentals of his game, he may not even be as good as he has been this year, and he has REALLY struggled at times this year. As Jason Kidd shows, smarts can go a long way, but Rondo's stubbornness, sometimes his best quality, has hurt him a lot recently. It will take all his stubbornness to get through this injury and recovery process, but will he know when to be stubborn and when not to be stubborn? Will he know when to be more humble, when to be willing to recognize a need to change what he is doing?
For Rondo fans, a winter of discontent may bleed into a summer of uncertainty, and for Rondo, it will surely be a tough journey, no matter what. Keep the faith, Rondo fans!
And Haters too...