Depending on the angle from which you watched last nights whatever-you-want-to-call-it between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, your opinion of what transpired will be drastically different.
For instance, many of the reporters in attendance who had a clear view of the action from their seats in the southeast corner and who were all (most likely) sober swear that they saw Rondo throw a punch. Multiple punches. Enough punches to earn a significant suspension and a public spanking from David Stern (or more hilariously, Adam Silver).
For those of us who watched on TV, there were no punches at all. Personally, Ive inspected the video at least 25-30 times over the last 12 hours and still cant see a punch or even a moment when Rondo could have thrown a punch. Maybe it was more of a jab? Either way, from the TV angle, the whole thing appeared to be nothing more than your typical overblown modern-day NBA altercation. The kind of thing that the mid-90s Knicks would frequent on the regular, and Bill Laimbeer would liken to a leisurely stroll in the park. (Granted, one that was entirely created and perpetuated by Rondo, and will definitely and justifiably draw some kind of suspension.)
Finally, if your only insight into the brawl was Kris Humphries postgame photo, the only assumption is that Rondos actually some sort of Wolverine-type X-Man, and you know what? That would explain a lot.
The bottom line is that people saw what they saw. Theyre going to believe what they believe. And as is the case every time Rondo throws himself into the heart of controversythe media monster, those beliefs will be screamed and re-iterated in circles from now until much further notice.
Hes a baby! Hes selfish! Hes not ready to lead!
Before you know it, youll hear arguments as to why Rondo is Bostons biggest problem. That theyll never win another title by hitching their wagon to a stubborn hot head. That he doesnt know what it means to BE A CELTIC!
And thats fine.
But all the yelling doesnt change the fact that Rajon Rondo's attitude is not the problem right now.
Rondos maturity is not the problem. Rondos temper is not the problem. Rondos petulance is not the problem. (Or not as big a problem as the number of people who continue to describe him as petulant, despite considerable evidence that its impossible to use the word petulant without sounding like a dick).
Is it unfortunate that his immaturity and temper continue to occasionally inspire incidents like last night? Of course. Its also wildly disappointing to be forced to admit that Rondo clearly still has some growing up to do, and isnt as ready to carry the emotional burden of an NBA franchise as we hoped coming into the season.
But in reality, thats not the end of the world.
These arent the mid-2000s Celtics. This isnt a still-immature Paul Pierce trying to lead a team, flanked by veterans like Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. Instead, from a pure leadership standpoint, Rondo has the best support system in the NBA. He has one of the best leaders of all time, in Kevin Garnett. He has a fully-mature Paul Pierce. He has Jason Terry, who in only two months has already, in his own way, taken over this team, despite the overwhelming presence of the two guys I just mentioned.
The truth is, in respect to this one and only season, Rondos maturity was a luxury. Sure, it might have been nice to see him become that guy, but he didnt need to become that guy. Not yet. The Celtics veteran foundation is still strong enough to carry a freakishly talentedemotionally immature point guard.
Then again, the veteran foundation is entirely useless unless Rondos on the court. If hes suspended for any significant amount of time and thats a possibility, depending on how much weight the league places on the incidents proximity to the fans theres no doubt that the Celtics will suffer. In that case, his immaturity will be costing Boston actual wins, and I guess you can understand why some people will use that to throw Rondo back into the ringer. Hes selfish! Hell never change! Hes letting down his team!
That last one always gets me.
Is he really?
In terms of wins and losses . . . OK, maybe. But in reality, as you listened to the locker room reaction after last nights game, did you get the sense that even one of Rondos teammates felt let down by what happened?
It is what it is, man, Garnett said of the fight and a potential Rondo suspension. Obviously we are worried, but it is what it is. We have to protect each other and we consider ourselves family around here. That's just the way it is.
That might sound ridiculous when you consider the circumstances of this particular incident, but thats just how they think in there. If anything, Rondos suspension will probably end up bringing this team closer together.
On the other hand, Doc certainly sounds disappointed. Im sure Dannys disappointed. Man, were all disappointed. This stuff wasnt supposed to happen anymore.
But you know what? Its not that bad.
After one, three, five or however many games, Rondo is going to rejoin the line-up and go on a tear. I understand the danger in making predictions about an unbelievably unpredictable character, but in this one way, Rondos as predictable as they come. Honestly, what do you think the odds are that he puts up a triple-double in his first game back? What about in his first two games?
And at that point, well forget about Kris Humphries. Well convince ourselves that Rondos learned his lesson and just pray that the motivation sticks around. Well move on.
So hes still a little immature? OK, thats fine. But I dont know how any one could have watched Rondo in the last two playoff series against Miami and not think that hes a player that you want on your side when its all on the line. Hes been that guy for years. (And hey, at least hes graduated from hitting refs to hitting players. Baby steps!)
So like I said before, Rondo and his takedown of Kris Humphries are not the Celtics problem.
The problem is everything that came before it.
The fact that, even with Rondo in the line-up, the Celtics just arent a good team right now. They consistently sleep walk through games against lesser-talented teams like Detroit and Washington. Save for last Friday, theyre consistently out-played and out-classed against the morejust-as-talented teams. And don't get me wrong, Rondo (especially on defense) has contributed to that. But the Celtics also have no rebounding. More pressing, they have no edge. No attitude. Teams arent afraid to play them anymore. Not at home, and not even in the Garden. Like Doc said, the rest of the league thinks theyre soft. So soft that the only potential punishment for landing a hard foul on Kevin Garnett is a two-handed shove from a 6-1 point guard. (At this point, I imagine Kenyon Martin on the phone with his agent: Really? Nothing from Boston yet?)
I know that Danny loves the freedom of that open roster spot, but its also pretty clear that this team needs something. Something larger. Something stronger. Something meaner. For instance, if Reggie Evans has an identical twin, he would be great. But really, isn't it time to make a move?
Once they address that issue, they can start figuring out how to officially get Jeff Green on track. Next, Courtney Lee (who at this point must be Greens biggest fan). They can get to work on improving a defense that ranks 23rd in the NBA in efficiency.
And if theres any time leftover, I guess they can spend a few minute worrying about Rajon Rondos temper, maturity and leadership. But even then, I'm not sure it will be worth it.