BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics and Rajon Rondo dodged a bullet Thursday afternoon, with the point guard only getting a two-game suspension for his part in Wednesday night’s melee against the Brooklyn Nets.
However, maybe a little harsher punishment from David Stern would have benefited Rondo in the long run.
There is no question Rondo is as talented as any point guard in the NBA. His double-digit assist streak, no matter how you look at it, is impressive in a league that consists of mostly me-first players looking to score. Rondo is part of a dying breed of pure pass-first point guards, and his talents should be appreciated. Whatever he lacks in his own scoring game, he makes up for in creating shots for others and on the defensive end.
But for a player that is supposed to be the new de facto leader of the Celtics, he has a lot of growing up to do.
That’s not to say Rondo hasn’t matured enough over the last three years to become that leader Boston is looking for, and won’t continue to do so. While this latest lapse in judgment is the another hiccup in his maturation, he still shoulders the load on a nightly basis for the Celtics. He’s logging a team-high 37 minutes per game over the season’s first month, which is to be expected from a 26-year-old with an engine that rivals the Energizer bunny, and has seen improvements in his overall shooting as well. To state the obvious, the Celtics are better when Rondo is controlling the tempo.
But what Rondo lacks most in certain moments is his composure. Plain and simple, he has a track record of losing his cool.
Doc Rivers joked Wednesday night that at least this time Rondo was going after players and not officials – as he did twice last year, which cost him two regular-season and one playoff game. It was quite the sight to see Rondo, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 186 pounds, go after Kris Humphries, who has eight inches and 50 pounds on him, all in defense of a teammate. Those are, as historians will note, the kinds of plays that are expected out of a Boston Celtic.
But Rondo only helps the Celtics when he is on the floor. He was of little use Wednesday night as the Celtics tried to mount a comeback against the Nets, and will be even more useless to Boston as they battle the Blazers and Bucks over the weekend.
Rondo should be applauded for sticking up for a teammate. From his angle, Humphries’ foul on Garnett looked a lot worse than it was, and he reacted as such. Where Rondo was wrong was shoving Humphries into the stands – no-no numero uno in the NBA. That’s what makes it so surprising that Stern only slapped him with a two-game ban, the same suspension he received for throwing a ball at an official last season.
Rondo didn’t learn his lesson that time around, as he proceeded to bump an official a few months later. Hopefully this time, the slap on the wrist is enough.
This is not to saying Rondo shouldn’t be sticking up for teammates, but even Celtics captain Paul Pierce said there’s a line between sticking up for a teammate and getting yourself booted from a game. That’s what Rondo needs to learn. He needs to control his temper a little more, and think of the consequences before he acts.
It sounds like something you tell a child, but it’s all just part of the roller coaster that is Rajon Rondo.
Basically we have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Rondo. He always seems up for the big games, but often coasts against lesser opponents (who doesn’t in the NBA?). For every five eye-popping, behind-the-back no-look passes he delivers, there is a wild one that sails out of bounds at a key juncture. For all those magnificently quarterbacked plays, there is always the possibility his temper will boil over at just the wrong time.
There aren’t many players — if any — that can bring what Rondo brings to the floor on a nightly basis. He doesn’t have the scoring ability of Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Russell Westbrook, but that isn’t what the Celtics expect out of him. And no one in that trio of elite point guards even comes close to his ability to create plays for others or his defense.
Rondo is a frustrating player at times; an enigma wrapped inside a riddle tossed into a conundrum soup.
But more often than not, the good outweighs the bad. It’s just something with which we have to deal.