I was struck yesterday by an article at Reds Army, which pointed out that not only does Rondo still lead the league in playoff triple doubles since 2008, despite losing out on two years' playoffs now due to injury, but that he and Lebron are waaaaay ahead of the rest of the league in what they call "crazy eights" - getting at least 8 in three major statistical categories. As we all know, until the last couple of years, Rondo did have a tendency to consciously go for triple doubles if he knew he was close (I don't think he does that much anymore), and he's even said as much. His dominance -- right alongside Lebron -- in Crazy Eights, however, shows that his triple doubles are not statistical anomalies.
All that is surely a significant indication of what a special player Rondo is, but still the writer felt that he had to add this caveat...
Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all stat, but I do think that it can show how a single player can greatly impact a game. Sure, guys can chase them but that usually happens when it’s closer to the end of completing the triple-double. Larry Bird got several of them but always did it within the context of the game, as did Magic Johnson. For the most part, Rondo’s are the same, especially in the playoffs. (EASY, I’m nowhere near suggesting he’s even close to the same caliber player of those two).
How often do we see caveats like this used in connection with Rondo? It seems to me that they have become standard, automatically thrown in as something expected, 'de rigeur'. I'm sick of it. Rondo clearly
is on par with such guys, in some ways, and the admiration guys like Larry and (especially) Magic have shown for Rondo make it obvious that they think so too. I swear to God, Magic has all but appointed Rondo his successor. That ought to tell people something.
Of course, Rondo's game has some pretty serious flaws, which have been discussed endlessly, always with particular enthusiasm by the Haters. But it's beyond reason to continue to deny that some aspects of Rondo's game are very elite. His toughness is rightly legendary. His competitiveness the same; I don't know the last time we saw a player who raised his game in the playoffs like Rondo. But most of all, Rondo is a truly great playmaker. It's no longer reasonable to deny this. The eyes alone should tell a person this. Of course I can speak only for myself, but I've never seen anyone play opposing defenses as though they were on a string the way Rondo does. Yes, he walks the ball up and kills the pace too much. He needs to change that. Even Heinsohn, who loves Rondo to death, has called him out for that one. But it was quite a revelation this season to watch Rondo manipulate opposing defenses over and over and over again, almost invariably setting up shots for his teammates ... which they often bricked, or failed to get off at all ... yet even so Rondo managed to average about what he's been doing for several years now (if you take away Rondo's first six rust games, he easily averaged over 11 apg for the season).
Rondo left many important questions still unanswered in 2014, but he certainly answered the biggest question hanging over him: could he still be a big assist man without the HOFers? The answer to that was a resounding "yes", but it somehow has gone almost entirely unheard. I find that quite amazing. For years all we heard was that Rondo couldn't rack up assists without the HOFers. How often, even as said HOFers declined, did we hear this rotted and putrifying argument? Now that he's proven it dead wrong, the Hater arguments have just shifted ground. I still see it on Twitter sometimes though! I guess nothing dies on Twitter.
I think this season proved something else that Rondo defenders have been saying for a long time: it's obvious now that Rondo's brilliant play has been masking the decline of the Big Three for a long time. That's no knock on the Big Three. Ray Allen has a key role now with the Heat, Pierce can still dominate games, and KG can too, less often. Ray Allen remains the personification of discipline, Paul Pierce remains the Maven of Moxie and KG is the old samurai. All these guys are, or were until last night, in the thick of the playoff fight, and that rightly adds lustre to their resumes. But none of them is remotely a Big Dog anymore. Of course, Paul Pierce still thinks he is, and I think that confirms some of what we have been saying about the leadership struggles that seemed to be happening between Pierce and Rondo while Pierce was here (and no, this doesn't mean that Pierce and Rondo hate each other, anymore than a big brother and a little brother have to hate each other to have a rivalry) -- bless his heart, that guy still thinks he can stare down Lebron.
Let's say it straight out: Rondo kept KG, Ray Ray and Truth looking like superstars long past their primes. This was no one way street, of course. In many ways the Big Three helped Rondo become the star he is today. But what we saw with our eyes has been proven right by time. Rondo was the straw that stirred the drink.
So let's cut out the caveats. Many questions lie ahead for Rondo. Many of them revolve around himself and his game. These are questions he really must address definitively this summer. Others have to do with where Rondo will end up and under what circumstances. The Rondo trade winds have already started to pick up. Danny can wrap his intentions under cotton batting all he wants; it's pretty clear that he has continued to shop Rondo, and that makes it nearly certain that he will continue to. Most likely the only thing keeping Rondo in green is the lack of an offer that magpies Danny sufficiently. That uncertainty makes it even more important that Rondo work like a madman on his game this summer. Defensive footwork. Breaking bad habits in transition. Shooting shooting shooting. When Rondo struggles to hit shots, one gets the impression that he's forgotten one of the keys to good shooting: good shooting is a romance. Great shooting is a love affair. The basket isn't your enemy. A good relationship takes lots of time and lots of patience and lots of stroking. Change who you are and you'll change how you shoot. Overcome fear, with love. Anyone who has seen Rondo lay a ball up on the rim with sweet english knows that he feels the love. But he seems to get scared when he's had a few misses. Then he starts clanging that back rim. It's partly in the body, but it's mostly in the mind, but you use repetition with the body to unlock what is in the mind...