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Back when the Celtics Big Three was formed in 2008, Rajon Rondo was the question mark, the kid brother who would tag along for a potential title run and hopefully not screw things up.
Oh how times have changed…and how they haven’t.
Now established as the Celtics best player, Rondo is a perennial all star and on the short list of the leagues’ best point guards. In many ways, Rondo is still the kid brother (not to Ray Allen anymore, I can assure you), not mature enough to handle big boy duties such as, I don’t know, being the leader of an NBA team that has done all it can to hand him the reins.
Take the reins, Rondo, your big brothers have done enough.
The latest example of Rondo displaying questionable leadership came this past week against the Atlanta Hawks. While disputing a call, Rondo made contact with an official and then failed to cooperate with the leagues’ investigation, leading to a one game suspension. Although the Celtics were able to defeat the New York Knicks without their star point guard, the games’ outcome does not diminish the fact that Rondo’s immaturity could have cost of his team.
When asked about the incident, Rondo did not use the words “mature” or “grow up” in his analysis, rather claiming he must “adapt.” Semantics aside, this wasn’t the first time Rondo has missed a big game. Rondo has demonstrated a disconcerting pattern of behavior over the past few seasons.
During last year’s playoff run, Rondo was suspended for Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Hawks for chest bumping referee Mark Davis.
The Hawks apparent propensity for causing Rondo to get physical with the refs hasn’t been the sole source of his altercations. Earlier this season, Rondo stood up for America but thought little of the consequences when he shoved Nets power forward/reality TV personality, Kris Humphries, after Humphries issued a hard foul on Kevin Garnett. Rondo’s shove led to a skirmish and he was given a two game suspension.
Although praised by some at the time for sticking up for a teammate, Rondo must know that he is most valuable to him team on the court, and there is a fine line between having ones’ back and letting emotions get the better of you. Paul Pierce and Garnett exemplify this balancing act on a nightly basis, playing with great energy but rarely losing their cool to the detriment of the team.
Whether he likes it or not, the Celtics have made it clear that they want Rondo to be the leader of the team. Head Coach Doc Rivers often calls Rondo their leader and best player. Garnett said it’s “good to have our best player back,” when Rondo returned from his Humphries hiatus. Jason Terry has said Rondo is the Celtics’ leader, and coaches and teammates alike have echoed this opinion for a few seasons now. It’s time for Rondo to play the hand he’s been dealt by the organization.
Seemingly stubborn and at times difficult, Rondo may never be the most coachable player or the most beloved player within the locker room. Some guys don’t have that in their DNA, and that’s fine. At the very least, Rondo must make friends with a mirror and give himself a screening. He needs to realize that he has to be on the court every game he is healthy enough to play. He needs to bring out the best out in his aging stars because they can’t carry the team on their backs anymore, and they shouldn’t have to. If there’s another title run coming to Bean Town, Rondo’s going to have to be the conductor.
And if not now, then in the future.
Because someday soon, Pierce and Garnett are going to move on, and Rondo will have a decision to make. Does he want achieve true greatness and become the man of the house? Or is he just someone who tagged along for a title run and later became a pretty good player?