Oftentimes Rondo seems to have either a high scoring game or a high assisting game. Even when he ends up with both a lot of assists and a lot of points, he seems to focus on assisting for a while, scoring for a while, assisting for a while, and so on. There seems to be a perception in both his mind, and in the minds of fans and writers, that you can either do one or the other, but you can't do both. I think the exact opposite is true. Scoring makes a good passer better and passing makes a good scorer better. Score to open up the passing game, pass to open up the scoring game.
Last night, Rondo seemed to drive into the lane over and over again, passing up shots in order to pass out to someone. At times it was almost upsetting to see him seem to pass off the responsibility for actually getting the ball into the basket to someone else. There were several occasions where he literally stood in the middle of the lane, with his back to the basket, looking for someone to pass to. If he was looking to get his assist numbers up, it didn't work, because he ended up with 8 assists, the lowest number he's had in a while. I can see why he makes the Haters crazy sometimes.
Last night, the way Rondo was playing seemed almost perverse at times. It wasn't just the way he'd drive into the lane and then turn his back to the basket. Another bothersome thing was the way he seemed to give up on defensive plays. This is another bad habit he seems to have. Even if he plays the initial drive by the pg well, and doesn't get just blown past, he sometimes doesn't seem to rotate well, picking up whoever is free or covering passing lanes, with the result that even if the first action is stifled, some additional passing by the opposing team, or a followup offensive rebound, leads to a basket. Meanwhile Rondo is standing around waiting for the offensive play to begin. Obviously, other guys on the team fail to finish well too, and not having anyone remotely like a rim-protector hurts, but Rondo doesn't seem to be leading very well in that dept. at times.
Last night at least Rondo was generally pushing the ball, so one bad habit - his tendency to slow the ball down - was broken for at least one night, but another cropped up - his tendency to forget about scoring and leave it up to his teammates to shoulder that responsibility, even though he remains this team's best scorer (at least in the sense of being the one guy who can get his own shot whenever he wants), you could almost say he played as though he wanted to stack up assists.
It's been a weird season from Rondo. The most important things seem to be on track. Rondo seems to be recovering well, and he doesn't seem to have reinjured himself in any way. Beyond that, no questions have really been answered. On one hand, Rondo's talent level is more impressive than ever. His passing and playmaking have been some of the most masterful playmaking I've ever seen. It's almost awe-inspiring at times. But the bad habits just won't go away. The tendency to walk the ball up the court, slowing the game down and forcing his teammates to go up against a defense that has had time to set - it hurts us everytime Rondo does it, but he keeps doing it. Even with Pressey demonstrating everytime he comes into the game how effective it can be to push the ball, Rondo slows it down most of the time. For God's sake, Rondo's an alltime great transition playmaker, but he rarely attempts it anymore - maybe two or three times a game, if that. Oftentimes even more shot clock is killed by what seem to be useless handoffs at the top of the arc. Rondo often walks the ball up, hands it off to someone, who hands it back, then Rondo pounds for a while, then he jabs at the offense a bit, and then finally he tries to force a play. My god, why not push the ball more often, catch the defense off guard, and keep your teammates in rhythm? It's not just on Rondo, though. Often when Rondo does push the ball, his teammates are slow to get downcourt. Other bad habits include the matador defense, the tendency to give up on plays too early on both the defensive and offensive end, the tendency to not do much off the ball, or to be ready for passbacks, etc..
Is Rondo the guy to build around? That's no clearer now than it has been in the past. When the talent is shining through, when the toughness is exemplified, when the leadership light is on, God yes. But when the bad habits seem to take over, one really wonders.
On the other hand, Rondo has to be experiencing tremendous frustration at times. How many times have we seen him dish to someone who can't finish, or who fumbles the pass, or who passes up on the shot, or takes so long gathering for the shot that the defense catches up, etc.? It's got to be maddening. For a truly great player to play his best, he needs other great players around. Brilliant passes that Rondo made to Pierce, Allen and KG can't be made on this team. There is no one of that caliber to pass too. It's a measure of how tremendous Rondo has been as a playmaker that he has maintained his high assist average with really no one to pass to. I'm not saying that the guys Rondo is playing with are a bunch of scrubs. They are talented guys who play with heart, and I'd love to see all of them in the Celtics future. But if Danny wants to build around Rondo, he's got to get some higher level talent in here somehow. And maybe this summer Rondo can work out with his teamates and get into better sync with them. I hope Rondo stays in Boston this summer and camps out in Waltham. I hope he shoots until his fingers bleed, invites teammates to work out with him, etc.. Next year could be pretty amazing. It's gonna take a lot of work though.