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...
Posted by werkshop at 9:16 AM