I was reading Sekou Smith’s Hang Time blog yesterday, specifically the article entitled Celtics Will Rebuild Quickly With a Healthy and Hungry Rondo On Board. It was an interesting read, in which Smith shares Rajon Rondo’s outlook on playing under new head coach Brad Stevens
“I never really backed away from a challenge. This would be a challenge. I’m looking forward to working with coach [Brad] Stevens. It’s a brand-new start for us as a team. A lot of new players and a lot of young guys willing to listen, so I’m very excited about that.”
and Rondo’s take on his relationship with the Boston Celtics organization
“I love it here. The fans are great here,” Rondo said. ”And [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] has been straightforward with me. This is my team. Why would I want to leave? Why would I want out?”
As a Cs fan, I am excited to hear that Rondo is looking forward to the challenge of working with a new coach and being the leader of this team. His comments suggest a new-found maturity in the Celtics’ point guard, and a willingness to accept the responsibility that comes along with being a team leader. These are welcome signs from Rondo, and I can only hope he truly embraces this challenge and takes his game to a new level – and the Celtics along with him.
But . . .
Even if we buy into Rondo’s enthusiasm to work with Brad Steven and his confidence that the Celtics will be his team to lead heading forward, do we buy into the notion that Danny Ainge foresees Rondo being the point guard of the future for these Boston Celtics? We all know that Ainge is not a sentimental type – his comments about being willing to trade Larry Bird have become the stuff of legends (ahem), and he clearly had no problem deciding that Paul Pierce would not retire a member of the Celtics, now did he? – so we cannot expect Ainge to retain Rondo’s services out of any sense of loyalty.
The question, then, is whether or not Rondo strikes the Celtics’ upper management as being the sort of player they SHOULD rebuild
around. (There – I said the dreaded “r” word that brad Stevens doesn’t want me to use!) There’s no denying Rondo’s athleticism and ability to dish the rock. He can penetrate and get to the rim over and over again, draw defenders to him and then pass to wide-open teammates, and defend like a you-know-what – he’s a dangerous weapon, a game-changer. However, he often displayed a tendency to hang onto the ball for too long last season, in an attempt to manufacture an assist when he should have just swung the ball around and let the play develop naturally. His feud with Ray Allen may have been overblown, the friction between him and Doc Rivers might have been exaggerated, but his hot-headedness has not, and is very unbecoming of the guy you want leading a young and inexperienced team of players. And the fact that Rondo turns 28 this February, while not a major deterrent, is something to consider, as he still has major trade value that the Celtics must be sorely tempted to exploit before his age begins to impact his game.
I like Rondo – as a Kentucky Wildcats fan, I’ve been following him ever since he suited up for Big Blue – and I think he will be one of the premier point guards in the NBA for at least another 4-5 years, hopefully longer. He has the ability to make life easier for the players on the court with him, and he will create scoring opportunities for his teammates no matter if it is Paul Pierce or Brandon Bass starting in the lineup alongside him. He will be a huge boost to the defense when he returns to full strength, and he will provide instant leadership on the court that will make the game a little easier for the rookies. In my opinion, the Celtics would be nuts to consider shipping Rondo out of town.
Still, this is Danny Ainge we are talking about here. Despite his public stance, I would not be totally surprised if Danny Ainge has not already started compiling a wish list of players he would like to get by moving Rondo – maybe Rondo’s stubbornness will never mesh with Ainge’s brash personality; opposites attract, and these guys are probably more alike than they care to admit.
Given Rondo’s skill set, however, I have to believe that the Celtics view Rondo as the foundation upon which they will attempt to rebuild this franchise to the heights that we all expect. If Rondo is serious about leading this team the way that it needs to be led, Boston has in him a player who will erase a lot of mistakes on both ends of the court, which will take the pressure off some of the inexperienced players and free them up to just play their game. There’s not many players in the NBA who fit that bill, and none whom Ainge will find for sale. If Danny Ainge wants the Boston Celtics to be the best team that they can possibly be, he’ll need to retain Rajon Rondo’s services for at least another five years, so ignore those trade rumors that are bound to crop up this season and rest assured that Rondo won’t be going anywhere, any time soon.
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