It’s easy to stand atop a mountain and scream “Trade Rondo” until the sound echoes off the chambers below. But if you wish to trade him, please come up with a good reason for doing so, and do enough research to offer a trade that makes sense, rather than just shouting “Trade him, Danny!” until your throat becomes sore. If you wish to trade Rondo, don’t be like Gerry Callahan.
Callahan, who actually gets paid to write sports for a living, by an established newspaper in Boston (the Herald), wrote the laziest “Trade Rondo” piece I’ve seen yet. Let me share some of his insight.
“Trade him? Seems wiser to trade everyone else and build anew around him. But then you wonder: How long will that take? Three years, maybe more?”
Um, Ger? It’ll take three months. And you don’t have to trade everyone at all. Danny Ainge specifically built a roster so only Rondo, Paul Pierce and some cheap spare parts remain under contract after this summer.
“Rondo has three years (and $36 million) left on his contract after this season, and even when things are going OK, he appears impatient, annoyed, petulant.”
Just so you know, Ger, three years and $36 million are an incredible bargain. And Rondo didn’t seem so impatient, annoyed or petulant when he played 40.6 minutes per game, averaged 15.8 points, 9.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds during the 2010 NBA playoffs, and led the Celtics within 20 minutes of the 2010 NBA championship, even with Kevin Garnett visibly hobbled, Paul Pierce playing far from his best (the Truth really struggled against Cleveland that year, remember, reached the 20-point mark just twice during the Finals, and his playoff PER was his second-lowest ever, next to a four-game first-round sweep against Indiana in 2004), and Ray Allen making exactly zero three-pointers in four separate NBA Finals games. That team was Rondo’s team. Nobody else’s. Say what you want about his outside shooting being an enormous flaw, and it certainly can be. But he came 20 minutes from leading a flawed team to a championship.
“You think that guy will provide veteran leadership and a steady hand in the post-Kevin Garnett era?
Or is the Rondo we saw Sunday night the player we will see on a nightly basis after Garnett and Ray Allen have left the building?”
Yes, let’s just assume Rondo will throw the basketball at a referee on a nightly basis after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen exit Boston. That seems fair.
“Rondo is an unorthodox point guard who has enjoyed the presence of two of the greatest wing players the NBA ever has seen. What happens when Paul Pierce, the best pure scorer in Celtics history, isn’t on one side, and Allen, the best 3-point shooter in NBA history, isn’t on the other?”
SINCE PIERCE AND ALLEN WON’T BE ON THE WINGS, LET’S TRADE THE YOUNG POINT GUARD KNOWN TO MAKE THING EASIER FOR ALL HIS TEAMMATES!
“Does Rondo tell, oh, say, JaJuan Johnson and Sasha Pavlovic to just hang in there and do their best? Or does he bail out on his teammates when times get tough, the way he did Sunday night in Detroit?”
He always bails out on his teammates when times get tough, doesn’t he? (Thinks about the 2011 NBA Playoffs, when Rondo played with one arm, with a dislocated elbow that normally requires three months recovery time.) Yeah, Rondo definitely shows a tendency to bail out when times get tough.
“As Wright was blowing his whistle, Rondo threw the ball at him, earning his first ejection of the season and a two-game vacation. It was a punk move by a guy who wasn’t hitting his shot (1-for-6), wasn’t taking care of the ball (six turnovers) and wasn’t getting the calls.”
He already had 10 assists, too, late in the third quarter. BUT LET’S NOT INCLUDE THAT BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FIT INTO MY COLUMN!
“The Celtics were already shorthanded — Garnett was out for family reasons and Brandon Bass was hurt — and now they lost their point guard. Rondo left without explaining or apologizing.”
Not everyone apologizes when they screw up at their job, Ger. For example: Though it would be nice, I don’t expect a “sorry” for your Trade Rondo column.
“Rondo is one of those athletes — like Pedro Martinez back in the day, like Tim Thomas today — who feels he has to stoke up a little hate and resentment to be at his best. He plays always to show someone, to prove someone wrong. You doubted me. You booed me. You underpaid me. You almost traded me.
He has always played with a chip the size of Chris Christie on his shoulder, but this season he seems to be playing particularly angry. Who’s he mad at? It’s always a good question with Rondo. His name came up in trade talks during the summer, but how angry can you get when the guy they were trading you for was Chris Paul? These days Rondo’s laundry list of grievances is a long one.”
[Callahan then lists a bunch of Rondo's grievances, including but not limited to "President Obama said he couldn't shoot" and "Everybody is in love with Jeremy Lin." ANALYSIS!]
If we’re going to list Rondo’s grievances like it’s a bad thing, we should also note that A) he’s having the best statistical season of his career, at least if you judge by PER, B) the offense-starved Celtics are almost 10 points per 100 possessions better offensively when Rondo’s on the floor (they’re also 5.59 points per 100 possessions worse defensively, for what that’s worth) and C) have you seen the way Boston’s offense runs with Avery Bradley out there???
This is where everybody notes that Boston was 6-2 with Bradley as a starter. I would caution you to remember that Boston also won three straight once Rondo returned to the lineup, and won the game during which he got injured by 23 points (Rondo scored 21 points on 7-8 shooting before hurting himself, so we’ll count that as his win too). So yes, the Celtics were 6-2 without Rondo. But during that 12-game stretch, they were 4-0 with him.
Since then, things have gotten ugly. But blaming Rondo for everything is to ignore everything else falling apart. Pierce hasn’t looked good, Ray Allen can’t seem to find any air space (and can’t create his own shot at nearly the same rate anymore, but that’s another blog post for another day), and missing Brandon Bass KILLS the Celtics because he’s the only bench player who can score worth a damn, not to mention he normally plays Jermaine O’Neal’s fourth quarter minutes with the starters. In the past week and a half before his suspension, with his team struggling, with times tough, Rondo set his scoring career high twice, recorded one 32-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound masterpiece, against the league’s best defense no less (in case you were wondering, that stat line has been achieved just 10 times in history, including Rondo), and averaged 22.5 points, 9.75 assists and six rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field. Still, people wondered whether Rondo’s presence was hurting the Celtics.
Let me answer that: No. They’re four points better per 100 possessions whenever he’s on the court, and that’s with a team not at all designed to run with him. The Celtics are an inverted design, a pack of snails led by a cheetah. When Rondo leads fast breaks he’s normally by himself, all alone. Once, KG ran the court better than any other big man. Once, Ray Allen spotted up in transition on every possession. Once, Paul Pierce could run the wing and finish with authority. That doesn’t happen anymore. Rondo has been hurt more than anyone by the Big Three’s decline because now he is stuck leading a puzzle into which he doesn’t naturally fit. STILL, as a square peg in a round hole, he’s having what I would argue is the best statistical season of his career.
(Note: If you want to see how Rondo would co-exist with a more athletic team, see his on-court relationship with Wilcox, Chris.)
Winning takes teammates playing at a high level. Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams — want to know something all those guys have in common? They’ve never played a single NBA Finals game. It takes teammates too. Keep that in mind whenever the Celtics flounder this year and you want to blame Rondo even though he just scored 35 points on 15-27 shooting with six assists, five rebounds and four steals.
All that being said, I’m not morally opposed to trading Rajon Rondo. Danny Ainge should remain open to any offer, and if he sees one that makes sense, he should pounce on it. Rondo should not be considered untouchable. But he’s Boston’s best player, he’s a bargain signed through 2015, he’s still getting better every season, he has a habit of lifting his play in the playoffs, he plays through pain and he’s utterly unselfish, at least on the court. Unless a deal comes across Ainge’s desk that makes sense for the Celtics future (perhaps the one Bill Simmons mentions here, which seems like a lot to ask in return for Rondo, JO and Keyon Dooling), keeping Rondo is both likely and prudent. There will be no fire sale and rightfully so.
“Most Celtics fans love Rondo because he is a lot fun to watch when things are going well. Things aren’t going well right now, and they might not go well for quite a while. The window has closed. The future begins tomorrow night in Oklahoma City, and it doesn’t look pretty.
So for Ainge and the Celtics, their next game is no different from their next season or their next era. They would rather have Rondo than not have Rondo, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be a struggle either way.”
This is the only part of his piece Callahan got right. I don’t think Celtics fans are actually mad at Rondo. They’re mad he can’t put this team on his shoulders and lift them to the No. 1 seed like Lebron did in Cleveland. They’re mad that even on Rondo’s best days, the Celtics sometimes lose. They’re mad that it’s now more clear than ever Rondo will need legitimate help leading the Celtics into the future, yet where that help will come from is murky.
The Celtics are likely headed for a rebuilding process, quite possibly a lengthy one. Trading Rondo now, unless the price is right, does nothing to expedite that progression.