The Other Rajon Rondo

776658.jpg

The Other Rajon Rondo

Two kids with the same name, living in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

Last night, before Game 4 of the NBA Finals by the way, I checked out at halftime. Im assuming that OKC won? Great! Lets go with that Rajon Rondo made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmels pregame show. However, he wasnt in the studio. Instead, Rondo was at home in front of his computer, ready to play the NBA Edition of Skype Scavenger Hunt.

Now there are a few interesting takeaways from Rondo's appearance. First, that he just moved into a new house complete with a chair borrowed from Joffrey Baratheon. That tells you a little something about his comfort level in Boston, right? Obviously, we don't know if he bought or if he's renting, but either way, it doesn't make sense to move your family into a new pad unless you plan on staying there for a while. And for the first time in a long time maybe ever? we get the sense that Rondo's finally confident enough to call Boston home.

Second, Kimmel's initial challenge: "Bring back the last thing that you read!" could not have been more perfect. At least from the Celtics fans' perspective.

We've spent the last six years trying to piece Rondo together like the world's most complicated jigsaw puzzle. We've grown obsessed with figuring out who he really is and what really makes him tick. Over and over, we've heard about how he's one of the smartest players in the league, and of course, we can also see that ourselves, but the more coaches, teammates, analysts and opponents mention it, the more intriguing and impressive that intelligence becomes. It makes us want more.

What's the last thing Rondo read?

Damn straight we want to know the last thing he read!

As Rondo searched around his new house, a couple options ran through my mind. I was secretly hoping for something like the Art of War by Sun Tzu or a biography of Winston Churchill. I dreaded the possibility of him making a joke of the whole thing and bringing back something about Red Bull or a magazine with himself on the cover. But deep down, I knew he wouldn't disappoint. And he didn't.

The answer: The Other Wes Moore.

Two kids with the same name, living in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

It wasn't cliche as opposed the two books I mentioned. Nothing felt contrived or insincere as if he was digging through a box of random books in his bedroom thinking, "Hmm, what will impress everyone the most?" Instead, it was just a random (albeit a former New York Times Best Seller), deep and philosophical non-fiction story about two very different guys with the same name.

And that was fitting, because the whole appearance showed us a very different Rajon Rondo.

Last night, he carried himself in a way that we never could have imagined, even as recently as a year ago. After all, this is a guy who's spent the better part of the last six seasons walking around like he's about to go in for a colonoscopy. He's been cold, short, snippy and unapproachable.

Yet here he was: On live TV (although, it was National TV which could help explain the performance). Unscripted. Out of his element.

And he was entirely comfortable.

He was funny, friendly, humble, self-deprecating straight goofy! There was no chip on his shoulder, no bone to pick with anyone. He was more real in these 4:58 seconds than he's been in any 4:58 since being drafted by the Celtics. At least on a stage that's visible to someone other than his family and teammates.

Maybe it took forcing him out of his element and away from the media to bring out this side him, but in my opinion, it's just another sign of how much he's grown.

I mean, it's easy to still look at Rondo like a baby compared to his Hall of Fame teammates, but the truth is that he is growing up. He'll be 27 next season. He's no longer a kid. And that's become evident in every aspect of his public life: The way the Big 3 finally began deferring to him down the stretch last season. The way he carried himself on the podium after games. The fact that he even agreed to go on Jimmy Kimmel in the first place.

Let's face it: Part of growing up is becoming more comfortable in who you are. In your own personality. So while it's been easy to just write Rondo off as a miserable curmudgeon, I think there's also a very real possibility that he's spent the last chunk of years doing what most of us do (or did) in our 20s. Figuring stuff out. Learning about and growing comfortable with who he really is. The only difference is that he's done it on the biggest stage imaginable. In the face of millions of mean-spirited people who would love nothing more than to bring him down and who are ready to jump on anything he has to say. It's hard enough growing up normal, I can't imagine what it would be like to do so under that spotlight, especially for someone as aware and cerebral as Rondo.

But he is growing up. He has grown up. You get the sense that he's ready to be Rondo, and that the puzzle's starting to come together.

That doesn't mean that he'll be all smiles, because being Rondo still means being moody and snapping at stupid questions, and Lord know those stupid questions aren't going anywhere.

But there's finally reason to believe that that's not all he'll give us.

That there will be more honesty, more personality and who knows, maybe even a book club.

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

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.