ATLANTA There's little doubt that Rajon Rondo is in many ways being groomed to be the Boston Celtics' leader of the future.
But it's times like this that may you wonder is that a good thing?
Rondo lost his composure in the closing seconds on Sunday, and the Celtics wound up losing the game, 83-74, as the Atlanta Hawks take a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
Making matters worse, his chest-bumping of official Marc Davis, as expected, resulted in a one-game suspension without pay, that will be enforcedultimately resulting him getting ejected, factoring into the Celtics' 83-74 loss, and to make matters even worse, he's now suspended for Game 2 on Tuesday.
Now the Celtics have been a team handling adversity since before the season started. And this, for many of them, is par for the course.
But here's the problem.
It's one thing to handle adversity when it lands in your lap. Totally different matter when you bring it upon yourself and your teammates which is exactly what Rondo has done.
If the Celtics lose this series, you can bet they won't blame Father Time, they won't blame Ray Allen's gimpy ankle, they could care less if Josh Smith continued playing like an All-Star.
It'll be Rondo's fault.
Fair or not, that's part of the deal that comes with being the future face of the franchise. That's part of the deal when you play at a ridiculously high level in games with a national TV audience.
"We've been prepared to play without him," C's Paul Pierce said before the announcement that he would be out. "We've been prepared to play without a number of guys. That's no excuse. It's game two. It's a game that we gotta have."
And if this season is any barometer for what's to come, the Celtics will probably win Game 2 and tilt home court advantage in their favor.
But even if they do that and the C's go on to the next round of the playoffs, Rondo's maturation once again will be an issue moving forward.
The talent that he has is off the charts. You can search high and wide, and you won't find another player in the NBA with his court vision or knack for getting the ball to guys in their sweet spots.
And while he's just 26 years old, these emotional outbursts - and their timing - has to give Danny Ainge and the Celtics' brass reason to pause.
Think back to February when the Celtics were at Detroit and Rondo, upset at an official for what he believed was a non-call - sounds familiar? - then tossed the ball to the official with shall we say, a little more force than needed.
He was ejected from that game and then hit with a two-game suspension.
Oh, the two games he missed?
They were only road games at Dallas - the reigning NBA champion - and Oklahoma City who at the time, had the best record in the Western Conference.
Yes, his timing then - and now - could not have been much worse, all things considered.
But here's the challenge for Boston.
The very thing that got him suspended - strong, passionate emotions - is the very thing he brings to the floor that the Celtics desperately need.
"Rondo's an emotional player," Rivers said. "You know that old saying,'I'd rather kindle a fire than start one?' I like his fire and sometimes it burns you. You know what I mean? But I like the fire that he has. He's a fighter for his team. You don't want him to go that far, obviously. But it's just who he is. It's also part of what makes him great. It's that fine line that you have to walk, and every once in a while he crosses it."
He certainly did on Sunday.
And chances are pretty good he'll cross it again at some point in the near future.
The Celtics can brush it aside to some degree now because they have leaders already in place to handle these kind of situations.
But Paul Pierce isn't going to be around forever. Ditto for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
At some point, there will not be a sharing of power at the top of the leadership board with the Celtics.
This will be Rondo's team.
And while the fire and passion he plays with is certainly a big part of both his success and that of the Celtics, these are the times when we're reminded that his leadership skills are very much a work in progress.
But make no mistake about it.
He will be a leader, the undisputed leader of this team very soon.
But you have to wonder . . . is that a good thing?