"1. You have had a front row seat for several phases of the Boston Celtics. You've seen some of the highest highs and the lowest of lows. Throughout it all, the thread that seems to set this team and the fans apart is pride. On some level that's corny, but it doesn't make it any less true. From your seat, what does Celtics pride mean to you?Celtic pride is the fans turning out to 97% of capacity in a year we all knew was going to end early. It's fans cheering and rooting for the team to win even though it would clearly be in everyone's best long term interest to lose. It's wearing a uniform and playing for an organization that has won 17 World Championships and you know will win again. It's walking into opposition buildings and seeing 10-20% of the crowd wearing Green. Most recently it was Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, in the 80's it was Larry and Chief and DJ and Kevin and Danny, and before them it was Havlicek, and before him Russell and Cooz and Tommy and Sam and KC and Johnny Most and most of all Red. It's the feeling I get every time I walk onto the Garden floor before a game. You know you are a part of something special."
Wow. Is there any room on that list for a rookie of the year, seven-time allstar, league MVP and allstar game MVP, HOF player, leader of two championship teams, who was selected as one of the league's 50 at 50? It's bad enough that none of the other great players the Cs had in the seventies get any respect, such as JoJo White, Paul Silas, Don Chaney, Paul Westphall, but this is flat out ridiculous. Apparently, Mike Gorman thinks that Dave Cowens is at best the 16th greatest Celtics. At best. Or maybe he would think that if he could remember Dave Cowens.
So the beat goes on. Also back on track is the obsession to trade Rondo - two threads on that today at CB. Apparently trading Rondo for Westbrook is a no-brainer, and paying Rondo max is not even to be considered, so much so that a thread about how much we should pay Rondo practically turned into a trade-Rondo thread. So what else is new. To my eyes, Rondo grew in stature as a leader this year, proved himself to be a genuinely peerless playmaker, and made great progress in his recovery, while showing that he could indeed play for Stevens, and showing signs of improvement as a shooter. There are still issues with his game - the tendency to walk the ball up, killing pace; the matador tendencies on D, the inconsistent scoring, especially in crunch time, etc.. We all wonder if Rondo will ever take his game to the 'next level', or if he even wants to. He remains an enigmatic player whose true worth is hard to measure. Why shouldn't it be that way? Not every star is a known quantity. Who was a better singer and greater artist? Any Winehouse or Brittney Spears? I'm sure Spears sold a lot more records.
I often come back to specific plays that seem to say something special about the quality of player we have in Rajon Rondo. There was a play in the last Celtics game, as I recall it, that stands out in my mind. Rondo had just received a pass, I think, around the left elbow, and the other team immediately tried to trap him. Unwisely - or was it wisely? - Rondo tried to split the double-teamers, and as he so often does, sort of threw the ball in front of him, trusting his reach, quickness and ball control to keep his dribble. Usually this works, but as sometimes happens, it got poked away and the two guys lunged for the now loose ball. They should have moved faster. Somehow Rondo managed to reach between them, regained control of the ball, and before the normal person could even figure out what had happened, and even though at this point Rondo was facing downcourt and away from the basket, an around-the-back pass was on its way across court to Bradley, who had spotted up, hit him right on the hands, and he went up for a dagger 3.
That was such a Rondo play, wasn't it? There was something almost otherworldly about it, about the way that ball seemed to leap out of Rondo's control, and then back into it, and about the way he seemed to be aware of what was happening on the other side of the court, and the perfect behind the back pass he threw - it was just such an amazing highlight moment in the midst of a breakdown, breathtaking gold woven out of straw. Almost the best part was the way Bradley spotted up for Rondo. Who spots up in the middle of an apparent turnover? Apparently Bradley does, when it's Rondo in the midst of the melee. In the end, it wasn't the world's greatest play. It was almost a turnover, even if it did lead to three points. But it showed Rondo's court vision, his unique ability to impose his will on the court, and a touch of genius. We know that to truly lead a team, Rondo needs to score more and he needs to play more reliable defense. He also needs a team with a better balance of players, as opposed to a team designed to lose. I can see how some people would prefer a long list of players to Rondo. A lot of folks prefer the proven value, or apparent proven value, that come with gaudy scoring statistics, and so on. But if Rondo shows a commitment this summer to pushing his game, and his role with the team, over the hump, I wouldn't dream of trading him, and it certainly wouldn't be a no-brainer if you decided to trade him.
I shake my head when I see the way folks talk about Rondo, like they just can't wait to get rid of him, or like you might keep him but if you get a chance to 'flip' him for a 'good deal', you do it in a 'heartbeat'. I think that when you have the best playmaker in the game, you don't give him up. You work with him.