Rondo's maturity isn't the Celtics problem

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Rondo's maturity isn't the Celtics problem

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.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

BOSTON — For most of Friday night’s game, the Boston Celtics played the kind of game that on most nights would result in a victory. 

But Toronto is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with talent, depth and an undeniable desire to win at all costs. 

One strong quarter by the Raptors was just enough to put away the Celtics, 101-94. 

And it came in the third when Toronto outscored Boston 33-18 which turned out to be the only quarter the Raptors (16-7) outscored the Celtics. 

“They got hot; made some tough shots,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The tough shots kind of hurt us.”

The tough shots and a flawless 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line. 

While it’s a 48-minute game, there was no getting around the fact that it was Toronto’s dominance in the third that ultimately determined the game’s outcome. 

“If you look at it from our perspective it’s what went wrong; if you look at it from theirs, they ratcheted up the defense quite a bit (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was hard for us to break their … break their wall of defense.”

In the third quarter, Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field, 30 percent (3-for-10) on 3’s and a woeful 5-for-10 from the free throw line. 

“We started making everything difficult for them and not letting them get that easy in and try to take advantage of that,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Kyle Lowry

The Celtics had no answer for the All-Star point guard who led all players with 34 points, 21 of which came in the second half. 

Avery Bradley

Bradley was the lone Celtics starter who seemed to be in a good shooting flow, tallying 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included five made 3’s. 

DeMar DeRozan

The Celtics made him work a lot harder than he usually does to score, but he still managed to tally 24 points – just four points below his season average – on 9-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

He made a few more turnovers than usual, but Horford still put together a relatively balanced performance. He had 19 points and seven rebounds with six assists and a blocked shot. 

Norman Powell

The X-factor in Friday’s outcome had to be Powell. A 5.8 points per game scorer this season, Powell had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting along with a game-high five steals. 

 

DUDS

Jae Crowder

With Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, the Celtics really needed its core starters to step up and have a productive night offensively. Crowder just didn’t have it going on Friday, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting which included a number of 3s that rimmed in and out on him.