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On Wednesday, SoB’s very own Bobby Doherty made the case that the Boston Celtics could rebuild around Rajon Rondo, referencing the 2007-2008 championship team as a model for Rondo as the team’s centerpiece.
Agree to disagree.
Is Rondo a starting point guard on a contender? Absolutely. He’s proven that with his championship ring, multiple playoff runs and Finals appearances, and three straight All-Star games.
But without any shooting touch, a decent attitude or three sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Fame teammates, Rondo has no business being the building block for a championship-caliber franchise. He totally could be that building block, just for some other team (you know, just in case Danny Ainge ends up trading his All-Star point guard to some sucker lucky team).
Even after his spectacular triple-double against the New York Knicks, any NBA team who thinks Rondo can lead an offense with that ugly outside jumpshot is horribly mistaken. According to Hoop Data, this season Rondo is shooting all of 34.5% discounting in-game lay-up line simulations. That’s even with opposing point guards literally handing him outside jumpers that couldn’t be more wide-open if it were warm-ups. It simply isn’t viable to run an offense where an opponent can clog up passing lanes and disrupt offensive spacing instead of guarding your primary ball-handler outside of 15 feet. Might as well feed my innards to Kevin Garnett for all the good that does me as a Celtics fan.
Of course, this might be a moot point if Rondo decided to, you know, GIVE HALF A CRAP. Ever since he dropped 18-17-20 on the Knicks, it’s been well-documented that 13 of Rondo’s 17 career triple-doubles have come in front of a nationally televised audience. I know I can’t pretend Rondo should go all Oscar Robertson for the Celtics and average a triple-double (particularly with this condensed schedule), but can’t I expect him to give a consistent, all-out effort? Why can’t he show up against lesser opponents, too, instead of just the Jeremy Lins of the NBA? It’s not like I’m asking for him to be Michael Jordan or even Garnett – borderline crazy people when it came to basketball and winning. Just a little honest effort and desire, that’s all.
No one questioned Rondo’s effort four years ago when the Celtics made their run to the 2008 NBA title, but mostly because that wasn’t his team. It was the Big Three’s, and only in the last couple years has it been “the Big Three (plus one)” (and even then it’s still in parentheses). Adding Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston mainstay and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Pierce brought the team out of the doldrums. It’s safe to say Ainge didn’t orchestrate those trades to fit pieces around Boston’s second-year point guard. The Celtics even acquired Sam “Big Balls” Cassell because they doubted Rondo’s testicular fortitude come playoff time. Using the 2008 title team as a model for Rondo as a centerpiece seems misleading.
Looking at the Celtics as they are currently constructed, it’s pretty clear that Rondo is the most critical player for Boston: the straw that stirs the drink, the spark that lights the fuse, and all other sorts of highly contrived, vaguely confusing metaphors. If that’s the case and the Celtics have turned over the keys to their young point guard, why is this team getting trounced by 32 in Philadelphia with Atlantic Division bragging rights on the line? Why is Rondo putting up five points and eight assists in such a big game? Why are the Celtics struggling to do better than the seventh seed (in the East, no less!)? And why am I getting so frustrated about it?!?!
Now, of course Rondo is an unbelievable talent, and certainly he can be an incredibly productive contributor on a contender. Should the Celtics trade him? No, probably not. But he’s not single-handedly capable of carrying a team the way Dwight Howard does for Orlando, Kobe Bryant did for Los Angeles in 2005-06, or Garnett did four ancient years ago. There’s a reason why he didn’t receive a max contract, why he’s the constant subject of trade rumors, why he won’t ever be the face of the franchise. I mean, if he can’t figure out whether or not to stick with the headband, what hope is there for changing his attitude or fixing his jump-shot?
So until Rondo turns into the Tim Tebow of the NBA – shoddy shooting mechanics that somehow seem to work when it matters most – I’m just going to keep praying that Superman swoops in to save us Celtics fans on the brink of disaster.