Missed Connections: Rajon Rondo

Missed Connections: Rajon Rondo
February 26, 2014, 12:45 pm
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Blakely: Rondo followed precedent

I really didn’t want to write about the latest Rajon Rondo drama because I didn’t want to write about any Rajon Rondo drama. Once the trade deadline passed and Rondo wasn’t traded (and then couldn’t be traded for another three months), I figured we’d get a much-needed break. A little Rondo refractory period. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. Less than a week removed from the deadline, we’re back in the stank with another fresh batch of controversy, and what the local news is calling:
First off, I’d classify myself as a Rondo moderate, but definitely leaning towards the pro-Rondo side. I’m a Rajon Rondo fan. In pure basketball terms, I believe that the Celtics can win another championship with No. 9 at the point. And in general, I think most of the Rondo criticism is over-the-top, misinformed and spiteful; a product of how much the media hates that Rondo hates them. It drives me nuts.
But this time around, what’s driving me especially nuts is that I can’t blame the media. As frustrating as it is watch and hear the Rondo haters prance around on their high horses, in this case, the only person to blame is Rondo. This one’s on him.
He wasn’t supposed to stay in Los Angeles. But he did anyway.
That might not bother you as a fan. You might think, “What’s it matter? He wasn’t going to play anyway.” But you can understand why that would bother an employer. You can understand why Ainge was upset enough to confirm the story in the media. Even if you’re the world’s most devoted Rondo fan, you have to admit that it sucks.
Some might argue that Rondo’s role as captain makes it an even bigger issue, but I disagree. Forget the captaincy. Being captain didn’t prevent Rondo from getting dangled at the deadline. You can’t expect a guy to fully embrace that role — on a terrible team, no less — when you still haven’t fully embraced him.
And Rondo has more than a few other reasons to be frustrated right now. He’s not used to losing like this. He’s like a Broadway star stuck in a community theater group. Meanwhile, multiple times this season, he’s heard Ainge speak publicly about how the playoffs aren’t a priority, or even a goal right now. He’s watched Ainge make two trades that have made this team worse. And then there was the drama at the trade deadline, some of which was garbage (coughHouston!cough), but some of which was grounded in truth.

Bottom line: We get it. He’s not happy. No one’s happy. Nor should they be. Other than maaaybe Jared Sullinger, there isn’t a guy in that locker room who can feel comfortable about his future in Boston. Even players on multiyear deals are lame ducks. Everyone is frustrated, and as the losses pile up these next two months, it will only get worse.
From a fan’s perspective, that’s fine. Fans can handle a little more losing in the name of a brighter future. Fans can zone out and check back in around the lottery. But these players have to live it. And yeah, they get paid a ton of money, but they’re still human. Either way, the Celtics locker room won’t be the happiest place on Earth these next few months.
And on paper, as the captain, it’s Rondo’s job to rally the troops and put everything he’s got into keeping them together. He should be there every step of the way. Certainly on a west coast road trip. That’s the time for bonding and building.
Of course, with that you can ask: What is this team even building towards right now?
And I don’t mean this franchise — the “Celtics” are in great shape — I mean this specific team. The 2013-14 Boston Celtics. At this point, what are their goals? What are they striving to accomplish? Not as individuals, but together. What is there to rally around?
They’re smart guys. They understand what’s going on. They know that while this season will likely benefit the Celtics in the big picture, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be around to reap the benefits. And it’s not fair to ask Rondo to try to convince them otherwise, because he’s still not convinced himself. You can’t expect him to act like a captain when he’s not always treated like one. On that note, I’d argue that Rondo’s true captaincy won’t begin until he signs a long-term deal to stay here.
But in the meantime, it’s probably a good idea if he doesn’t skip any more flights.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine