Saturday, March 8, 2014
Big Bro, Little Bro
I think most people recognize that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had some kind of Big Brother/Little Brother relationship with Rajon Rondo, and just to keep it all-in-the-family, Doc had a kind of paternal relationship with Rondo. I think this kind of thing is entirely natural for a league where young men are routinely coming in at the age of 18 or 19. That's also why it is important to have a developmental league. For Rondo, this quasi-familial situation seems to have been especially important. Haters say that without the Big Three, Rondo would have been nothing special. Well, I think that's probably true, but not for the reasons they imagine. They fool themselves into thinking that the Big Three made Rondo look good, without stopping to consider the other side of the coin, that Rondo made the Big Three look good too. The familial atmosphere that seems to have surrounded Rondo was important because it nurtured Rondo. These guys around Rondo saw Rondo's talent, and helped him develop it.
But, as anyone who has had older siblings and parents knows, I suspect, this kind of nurturing can be a two edged sword. What was once a support system becomes a constraint. Loving relationships sour, and disillusionment sets in, leading inevitably to relationship rupture in some form. Sometimes that becomes very ugly, as we saw with Ray Allen. Ray Allen really took Rondo under his wing at some point, but I think that he is such a control freak, in the way he approaches life, and the way he approaches the game of basketball, that Rondo had to break away, and Allen couldn't really accept it. Even so, there will surely come a day when Rondo and Allen will make peace with each other. Time can heal wounds if people gain perspective on what happened.
With Pierce, Doc and KG, it's been different. It really looks like all three of those guys realized that for Rondo to thrive, they needed to move on, that he needed a chance to stand on his own two feet, and spread his wings, and make some mistakes, and learn from them and so forth. On top of that, they really didn't want to go through a rebuilding phase. Of course, they didn't make those decisions all by themselves; Danny played a pretty big role in bringing about their departures. He too seemed to understand that the time had come for a shakeup.
The last year has been hard for Rondo. First their was the devastating injury to his knee. Then there was the long, lonely, doubt-plagued rehab. Then there was the challenge of maintaining/building a leadership role on a team that had to play without him for several months. Now there is the ongoing challenge of trying to rebuild his game while showing leadership on the floor, and under the pressure that comes with being the guy with the ball actually in your hand. It's one thing to realize intellectually that you are truly the leader, that how the team plays, especially when things are going wrong, really comes down to you; it's another thing to feel it, to experience the reality of it. Since Rondo began to get his game back, he's really only let down a couple of times (and even then, it's been nothing like the no-show games he used to have, in years past), but that's been enough to see that the team follows his lead, to begin with, and depends on him to make the difference when things are really tough.
I think it's fair to say that it's been an ongoing theme here, in the past, that Rondo and Pierce struggled at times to find a way to coexist. Both guys have a tendency to want to control the offense, and while they managed to make magic together sometimes, finding creative synergy on some of the most beautiful basketball plays you'll ever see, they also got in each other's way. They were always brothers, but sometimes it's not easy. Brothers butt heads sometimes. Pierce's words about Rondo, before and after yesterday's game, show how much he really does care. His comment that Birthdaygate should not be such a big deal mean a lot coming from such a respected former captain to a current captain. His advice to Rondo to be patient during the rebuilding process, directly relating Rondo's situation to the situation he was in before the Big Three happened, strongly affirms Rondo's leadership role while helping with needed counsel. I think Pierce made it clear that he understands the pressure that Rondo is under right now, trying to establish his role as leader at the same time that the team tries to discover and explore its identity as a team, all the while under the scrutiny of the higher-ups and the public, dealing with the burden of expectations.
It's a beautiful thing to see. After all the storms and struggles, the caring is still there. It's real. A helping hand is there for Rondo when it is needed. Rondo and the team responded well after the Golden State debacle. Now the challenge is to sustain that competitive spirit in the next game, taking it game by game.
I think it was important that Rondo established himself as a scoring threat early. He also played a key role closing out the game with assists, rebounds, a key basket and a steal.
I was glad to see that Stephens wasn't freaked out over the turnovers. We certainly had far too many turnovers, but at least the two guys who had the most were two guys who love to pass, in Rondo and Olynyk. It's so much better to try too hard to make good passes than to not try hard enough.