The Rondo ‘Tude.
#9 is where amazing happens.
If you’re a regular around these parts, or if you have the pleasure of listening to me babble in real time, you know that Rajon Rondo is honored like a deity. Rajon Rondo is a religion.
But that doesn’t mean I am blind to the faults that hold him back from realizing all of his potential. And yes, you know that he’s got plenty of potential.
Rondo’s name has been circulating the interwebs for the last week or so because of some rumors that cropped up due to the planting of some Phoenix radio junkies: Rondo & Ray to Phoenix for Amare & Barbosa. Those rumors quickly were dismissed by some Celtics front office execs, but it certainly got people thinking: is Rondo as untouchable as many of us thought? Midway through the season, once we realized that Rondo was truly an established point guard in the league, I think many loyal fans figured Danny would lock up Rondo with an extension after this season for a number of years to secure him in green for the foreseeable future (after $3+ million heading his way in 2009-2010).
We know he had a little bit of an attitude when first starting. We know that he was making too many gambles on defense. We know that he was a bit unpredictable when running the offense. We know about the horrible shooting ability. But we pretty much chalked it up to 3 things: 1) he is young, 2) he will mature, 3) he has the talent and skill set to potentially be a extraordinary successful and unique point guard in the NBA.
Then April 23, 2009 happened. Jackie MacMullan featured an article on ESPN.com entitled, “Rondo fast becoming Celts’ leader.” This article shed some important light on Rondo’s personality: for the most part, #9 has been pretty closed off to the public. He takes inner city kids shopping for clothes and roller skating, plays basketball with kids up in the North End, and spends much of his off-time with his daughter and family. We knew that much. But MacMullan shared with us all what he is really like– a bit of a baby, a bit cocky, a bit of a whiner… but she also shared what he is TURNING into: a trusted leader, a super competent floor general with many non-point-guard-like skills, a maturing player learning to play within a successful system… Basically, MacMullan argues that he had a lot to learn, has learned a lot, and still has a lot more to learn.
Then Rondo explodes during the playoffs– averaging almost a triple-double in the first round v. CHI and has so many analysts eating out of the palm of his (freakishly large) hands: look out CP3 and Deron, Rajon was here.
The season ended. Then the trade rumors.
Then Bill Burt. Burt of the Eagle Tribune sat down with Doc for an interview that was published on Sunday, June 7th:
Q: You mention three All-Stars, but wouldn’t you consider your point guard Rajon Rondo a fourth All-Star?
DOC: “Rondo still has a lot of growth ahead of him. As great as his numbers were, as great as he played at times, guys still fell off him to double team. Guys don’t fall off an All-Star to help with someone else. He has to make them pay for that by hitting his shot. Rondo has a chance to be a great player. “But you have to do it every day in the playoffs. The first five games of the Chicago series Rondo played at an All-Star level. But the rest of the playoffs you could make the case that he really struggled. He had good rebounding numbers. He also had some good assist numbers at times. But at the point guard level you have to be able to score and get your assists. When teams play the Boston Celtics the one guy they are going to help off of is Rondo.”
Q: Does Rondo understand that?
DOC: “Yeah, I think he does. Rondo has a healthy ego. But he understands he has to get better on the scoring end. He has to hit the open shot. But knowing him and how competitive he is, and how tough he is, he will work on that this summer.”
Is that it? Nope. CelticsBlog then posted an article about Rondo: “an attempt at a rational, objective evaluation of the player.” You just have to read this article for yourself: it’s a wonderful look at Rondo’s assets and liabilities.
With the CelticsBlog article, like the MacMullen one, you are left feeling both positive and negative: in everything that the Celtics’ fan-base has been exposed to, we know that there is still an attitude problem. But in nothing that we have seen on the court or heard about from teammates suggest that we should question his athletic ability, doubt his basketball IQ, or second guess his potential for great things. Nothing. Attitude and personality aside, #9 has the makings to be one of the best offensive and defensive point guards in the association.
4 things we know:
- Rondo is well on his way to being a lockdown perimeter defender: his biggest issue is that he still gambles too much on defense. Coach T and Doc have incorporated his defensive style into the defensive sets that the Celts play: Rondo often plays like a free safety roaming the top of the key and elbows waiting to make a play. Second team all defense? Check.
- With one of the quickest first steps in the league, few defenders can stay with him when he penetrates. Offensively, he is most dangerous when in the paint. His ability to finish around the rim has dramatically improved this year, although once he’s able to turn his tear-drop into a pull-up short-range jumper, he’ll be even more deadly. His sharp court vision and ability to snap passes old-school style to open players make him a critically important play-maker.
- Rondo’s ability to play half-court set ball and up-tempo transition ball add to his dynamic flexibility and make him invaluable to the other 4 players on the court.
- He’s got personality.
The fourth thing we know seems a bit odd because it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with his basketball abilities. He dresses with style, he talks with swagger, and he shows flashes of too much intensity on the court in between plays.
Remember when Rondo and Rafer Alston (skip-to-my-POO) got into a little scuffle back in March 2008? What about Rondo and Kobe getting in each other’s faces in February of 2009? How about the fallout after Rondo punched Miller to save game 5 in the opening round of the playoffs? Or the scuffle with Kirk Hinrich in game 6 in the same series (by scuffle I mean Rondo tossing his ugly ass into the scorer’s table).
#9’s got intensity. #9’s got attitude. And you don’t want to lose this. You don’t want to lose this part of his personality because it will take away from his game. Wonder why he has the galls to fearlessly take it to the hoop against some of the league’s biggest and most intimidating guys? Because of Rondo’s intensity and attitude. Wonder why he talks trash to whomever he pleases? Because of Rondo’s intensity and attitude. It’s part of Rondo’s game now because it helps ignite and fuel his ability to focus and play hard. How his intensity and attitude tends to manifests itself– the pushing, the shoving, the trash talking, the whining after getting called out on mistakes– will eventually take care of itself. The maturation of Rajon Rondo has already begun and will continue to occur as long as the system takes care of him. Be patient. Don’t trade him. Don’t give up on him. Instead, continue to give him time to grow as a player and let the man turn into the best point guard in green since Cous. The Celts didn’t give up on Paul Pierce when so many others did– remember when he was boo’d off the court? Which game, you ask? Any game. Now look at him: a Finals MVP, a wise veteran, and a future hall of famer.
Take the Rondo ‘tude for now because it will pay off even more dividends soon enough.