Saturday, July 19, 2014
Blame It On Rondo
If we measure Rondo's return against more realistic expectations, it would make more sense to say it was a great success than to say that it was a failure. The most important thing that happened was what didn't happen; Rondo didn't re-injure himself. Another very good thing was that Rondo shot the ball more, and initially, with much improved success. He showed better form and more confidence in his shot. One of this most important tasks this summer has to be to finally get 'over the hump' as a shooter. Hopefully he is shooting until his arms fall off. Hopeful signs need to be turned into sustained advances.
Rondo's movement on the court seemed less explosive, but his mastery as a playmaker seemed to be better than ever. Rondo seemed to be in control of opposing defenses, as if he had opposing players on a string. Sometimes, as Rondo dribbled around, it looked like he was turning the other team's defense into origami.
His own teammates seemed slow to understand what he was up to at times, and slow to respond. This is a sign not of his failure, but of needing better, or more attuned, teammates. Even so, Rondo basically led the league in assists last year. If you take out his first month, when his minutes were limited and he was shaking off rust, he averaged better than 11 apg. That is a genuinely astonishing achievement.
In fact, Rondo has basically led the league in assists for four straight years. In 2011, Nash barely caught Rondo at the end of the season because injury and team confusion brought Rondo down, and Nash came on. In 2012 and 2013, Rondo led the league outright. This last year, Rondo would have led the league if you took away his first six games back and if he had enough assists. This guy, who has essentially led the league in assists for four straight years, as his team has deteriorated around him, and despite injuries; this is the guy who is routinely now almost looked upon as some kind of a joke by many?! Leading the league in assists is a tremendous achievement. Moreover, the numbers confirmed what the eye saw - that Rondo's mastery as a playmaker is better than ever.
There were important disappointments. Rondo's defensive play continued to deteriorate and his shooting confidence, which started out high, collapsed. Worst of all, Rondo continued to slow the pace down. This became so bad that Heinsohn, who loves Rondo, publicly called him out for it. On the other hand, it is absurd to blame Rondo for going through the motions some on a team designed to tank only slightly less blatantly than the Sixers.
Overall, one should grade Rondo's return-from-ACL season as incomplete. As we now know, that is the typical grade after return from ACL injury. The fantasy that Rondo would come back and lead the D-league level tankarama Celtics to number 18, like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland showing that a bunch of kids with a little grit and moxy can beat the odds, crashed pretty hard into reality. Rondo is the wrong person to blame for this.