Thursday, July 17, 2014

Escorting Rondo to the Ainge Express?


It can be a  weird experience reading some of the blogs and journo-blasts  revolving around the Celtics.  They seem, at times, to emanate from an alternate universe.  In this alternate universe, sometimes dubious opinions are hammered by repeated assertion and usage into absolute fact, or  into near fact.  Thus it is a near fact that Rondo - as it is said -  will not abide by any sort of Celtics rebuild and  will leave town next summer if the team does not become an instant contender.   This near fact has  a corollary near fact:  if the Celtics do not land Kevin Love, it is widely said, Rondo must be traded, for he will surely leave town next summer.  Rondo might leave town, and of course he wants to be on a contender as soon as possible, but he has repeatedly asserted his desire to stay and his willingness to help the team grown.

Another near fact is that Danny Ainge is a trading genius who will never lose a trade.  This near fact relies fairly heavily on another  astoundingly surreal near fact;  the Perkins trade, it is widely thought, was a huge win for Ainge and the Celtics.   In fact, Danny has made some trades and moves that worked out brilliantly;  he has also made some that didn't work out so well;    he has made some that are questionable and he has made bad to awful trades and moves.  The main evidence for Danny being a genius can be said to be that he recognized Kevin Garnett as a man who could re-establish Celtics Pride, and he had a friendly GM in Kevin Mchale who was willing to  help give KG, the Cs, and the 'Wolves fresh starts.  Recognizing that KG could change the Celtics' culture and fortunes wasn't exactly genius, though it was a very good move.   But for every brilliant Danny move, there is an opposite bad Danny move.   The Perkins trade was the opposite to the KG trade.  It blew a strong and determined  Celtics team out of championship contention.   It solidified Oklahoma as a strong contender.  The Celtics ended up with the better player in the deal, yes, but that better player was an inconsistent player in a position where he was redundant, while trading Perkins left a gaping hole at the five that still hasn't been addressed, three years down the road.  It looks like Danny's genius solution for fixing that gaping hole he made may be yet another tankjob season.  Ah, but there's another near fact;  teams that want to win need to avoid the rut of mediocrity, and that means they have to tank for lottery picks.  Of course, tanking has ruined some teams, leading to a seemingly endless tank cycle, or in Cleveland's case, a boom or bust cycle, but nevertheless, it is, we are told, the only way for smart people. 

In my view, one of the most egregious 'absolute facts' is the claim that a good GM is ready to trade any player at any time, and that even the best and most loyal player should always keep his bags packed by his door, just in case some really sweet deal cannot be resisted by such a good and responsible GM.  This is just so ludicrous.   To build a good team, to play good basketball, you need some dedication and loyalty from your players.  It surely should be too obvious to say that one cannot expect loyalty and dedication from players to whom one refuses to give loyalty and dedication.  The key here, as in all things, is - of course - context and balance.   Of course trades can and must happen at times.   Sometimes they even  benefit everyone involved.  But it should go without saying that the more important a player is to your team, the more dedicated he is, the more important it is to show  loyalty to that player. 

There is an even more egregious 'absolute fact' that this one is based on:  the claim that sports is just a business, and that therefore personal feelings and relationships have no place in sports decisions.  Of course none of that is 100% true in even the most hard-headed business environments,  but it's just absurd to claim that sports leagues are businesses in the normal sense, which I believe is enshrined legally in their avoidance of anti-trust actions.  Sports play an important role in the social fabrics of entire communities, which subsidize those sports in myriad ways, not just financial ways, but those too.

With many of these group think fact-like social artifacts, it is, I think, always interesting to ask cui bono.
Who benefits from certain attitudes being promulgated and repeated until they harden into near facts?  It's really naive to, in my view, to think that factals really just come into being spontaneously.  Maybe some do.  I think that many of them take quite a bit of coaxing to form properly.  I thought this was particularly obvious after the Perkins trade.  Rationalizations for the Perkins trade seemed to spread through the internet in waves.  Perkins would never resign with us, we were told.  Yet he wept when he was traded.  He wanted too much money, we were told.  Yet there were apparently no real negotiations, just an initial offer.  He was finished physically, we were told.  Yet he is still the starting center of a perennially contending NBA team.
Shaq would come back from injury and replace him, we were told.   But we knew that would take a miracle. because Shaq was in a chronically debilitating phase of his career.  Krstic would be even better, we were told.  Yet Krstic was not noted as a defensive player.  The most important thing for our team was spacing, we were told.  Yet spacing, while important, had not been elevated as such a crucial need before.  We were told that Green would be tremendous.  Yet Green had been a journeyman.  A kind of palace of illusion was created around the Perkins trade, and it worked. 

I can't help but wonder if the same is being done in preparation for a Rondo trade.  We are told that Rondo wants to go max in his next contract, though what he has said publicly suggests that he is open to different possibilities, and there have apparently been no negotiations beyond an initial offer.  There is an insinuation that Rondo may never fully recover from his ACL, though  in some ways he played more brilliantly than ever  even in the shortened season  he had last year, and full recovery typically doesn't happen until the season after return to play.  There is the unspoken presence of a replacement waiting in the wings, in draft pick Marcus Smart.  There seems to be a growing consensus that not only is Rondo not someone to build around, but that he is not even a top point guard anymore.  One writer even mocked Cousin's statement yesterday that Rondo was the best pg in the league, as if it was not only not true in his eyes, but actually ludicrous. But of course, the fact that Rondo has now repeatedly led the league in assists, by itself, is a strong argument that he is the best point guard.   Sure, one can argue that Paul is, or Westbrook, or Curry, or even Rose, and not Rondo, but one cannot reasonably laugh/sneer at the notion that Rondo might be.

When Danny finally pulls the trigger and trades Rondo, assuming he does, expect the talking heads and sages to declare their surprise, while nodding their heads about how inevitable and smart a move it really turns out to be, when you think about it...

6 comments:

  1. I seriously just wrote the longest response ever to this piece and it didn't post! HAHA It was basically a SUPER long winded way of saying that at this point the media seems to be bullying Rondo (I seriously hope none of those guys are a part of any anti bullying campaigns). And Rondo - for as immature as they love to make him out to be - has handled this entire off season with a measure of class and professionalism worthy of applause! If there were a player in the league who had earned a right to bitch and moan about their situation, and passive aggressively...or just plain aggressively try to push their way out of an organization it would be Rajon "Trade Rumor" Rondo. I hope Coach Bibby is right and Rondo shuts all his critics up on the court this coming season. I hope that it happens on a TBD Celtics roster (the man can't beast so hard without another legit star to play with). But, I must admit, I will root for Rondo no matter whose Jersey he has on. I've had mad respect for Rondo since I really started watching basketball again but how he's handled this summer especially I think has endeared Rondo to me for life. I want to see this guy come out on top and smile that a**hole smile at everybody whose been waiting for him to hang his head, tuck his tail, and act like a good boy. I would love nothing more!

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    1. I do that all the time - write long posts and long replies, and then lose them, or realize that I need to set them aside. Nothing wrong with it, in my view - well, obviously, I guess. What I especially love is that you bring up the word "bully". I feel that. Rondo is bullied by the media and the fans too. I'm not one who worships fans. Most fans are like most people, and most people are - frankly - bullies. One of the things that means is that when they feel disappointed, they look for someone to blame, and the someone they look to blame is not ever going to be whoever has real power and influence in a situation. They are going to pick on the odd man out. Big Baby got a lot of that. He follows the junior high archetype of the fat boy - remember how fat boys got bullied? Or else they were bullies. It seemed like it was one or the other for them. And who else got bullied? Oh yes, the weird kids. The ones who didn't seem to quite know how to fit in, and especially if they were egg heads. It's really not so hard to see through some aspects of the stuff that gets thrown at Rondo, and really, you got right to the heart of it in some ways. It's about bullying. I think, though, that it's also basically emanating from Danny, and the fundamental purpose is to distract people from blaming Danny, and also to soften up the fandom that loves Rondo for his departure. Danny has to walk a fine line. He has to try to build Rondo up to make him tradable, but he also has to break down fan identification with Rondo. Bringing in Smart as the new 'face' is a huge step, probably a river rubicon moment. I think the journos and bloggers play a big role in all this. It's not that they get literal marching orders, or that they are in absolute lock step. It's more that they know where their bread gets buttered and they can pick up on cues. I really agree too in hoping that Bibby is right. Regardless of where Rondo ends up, I hope he shuts up the critics and stuffs their words back down their throats...

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  2. Sometimes I wonder if this is a race issue or what not? For anyone who says Rondo is a "prick"...So was Larry Bird and we loved him for it. Rondo may not be an all time player like Bird but I love his fire & passion for the game. Why trade a star who wants to be in a place for his whole when we have a tough time attracting them in the first place. Yeah, he has one year left on his existing contract but he has stated he wants to be here for the rest of his career. New England did the same thing with Paul Pierce and they are doing it with Rondo now.

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    1. I think race has a lot to do with a lot of the bs we see from journos, bloggers and fans, honestly, and not just with Rondo. I would start with the way fans love to dehumanize players, speaking of them as 'pieces' and 'assets' (pieces of assets?), talking about 'flipping' them, etc.. You see it too, I think, in the way fans almost always assume that management is right and players have to go along or shut up. It's like they see players as peons, and they resent any behavior from players that suggests they have minds of their own. You see it too in the fascination fans have over the physical attributes of players, and the relative lack of interest they seem to have in the mental aspects of the game. Btw, I think Rondo could, if he steps up his game the way we've been waiting for him to do, be on the same level as alltime greats like Bird. But will he? He's been on the verge of superstardom for three or four years now.

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  3. I don't think its a race thing. I think its a personality thing. He's intense, but not in a crazy bark at people KG way. He's not going to put on a face and dance for the cameras like a Dwight. I agree with Kobe that they are quite the same, but as big of a jerk as Kobe can be he still manages to do it with finesse. Rondo is awkward and he knows he's awkward. He gives stupid answers to stupid questions. He doesn't elaborate on yes or no questions. He just doesn't "play" along if you will, and I think they're all waiting for him to say sorry for it. Ultimately Rondo doesn't fit into any of the ready made NBA personality boxes, so he just gets to be a pariah.

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  4. I agree that Rondo is himself, and in any walk of life, that drives most people nuts. They are all so busy trying to fit in that it can sometimes really upset folks to see someone not trying to fit in.

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