I've been to, live, I'd guess nearly 80% of Rajon Rondo's home games. Not this season. In his career. I've watched probably another 25-30% of his games on television.
As you can ask any of my friends who deal with my Celtics mania, I've always had a love/hate relationship with Rondo. Early on (including the year where the Celtics won #17), my issues with Rondo stemmed from his inability to shoot, his needless defensive freelancing, and his desire to make the flashy play over the simple one.
But you couldn't argue with success, right? A Championship, another Eastern Conference title, and a few games from a 3rd. He was the starting point guard on a very successful team, and arguably, the most important player on that team.
As the core around him has aged, the media story, the story from the team, the story from everyone has been that this is the year that it becomes Rondo's team. I bought in. Over the last year and a half, the improved shooting, the occasional glimpses of greatness (national TV triple doubles), and all of the talk coming from the team: I believed. I thought Rondo was ready to become "the man."
I was wrong. I'm out. I want off the roller coaster.
Even knowing that the team expected him to be a leader, knowing that the team needed him to step up and carry more of the load, Rondo hasn't changed. He still walks away from team huddles. He agitates officials such that he rarely gets calls (and the league has a hair trigger with regards to his behavior, making matters worse). He padded his stats by giving up easy hoops in favor of assists during his double-digit assist streak. His defense has gotten progressively worse, to the point his on ball defense has to be below average for a point guard.
The thing about it is, I know that Rondo could be better. When he wants to play defense, he can be stellar. His shooting has become an asset. He can finish around the rim and score, seemingly at will, but simply refuses(?) to do so. I don't know what it is, but it seems like Rondo coasts through games at 60%, turning it on when he thinks he really has to. Is it a coping mechanism, to help him last through a full season? Is it a coaching strategy? I don't know.
But it's hurting the team, and destroying my will to watch Rondo run the point for the Celtics.
Thursday's game against New York was the final straw. Rondo has a triple double, an amazing 4th quarter (almost single handedly getting the Celtics back into the game), and I'm stuck on the thought that Rondo's first three quarters were the reason the Celtics were down.
The final straw(s) were two plays. A 3-on-1 break in a tight game where Rondo tried to throw a backwards alley-oop rather than take a wide open layup, and a diagonal cross court pass thrown off Tyson Chandler's head in the final minutes of a game where the Celtics had made a furious comeback. I half think he did it on purpose.
I don't think Rondo is a bad player. I don't think we could even get full value for him in a trade. I just don't think that he can run a team, that he's mature enough to ever be the guy. I'm probably wrong, but I don't care any more.
My epiphany is that Rondo is now like Manny Ramirez, circa 2008ish. When he's on, he's breathtaking to watch. When he's off, you wonder how a player could have that little regard for his teammates (let alone the team or the fans).
Sometimes you have to break ties. I think it's time.
I got into a somewhat interesting Twitter conversation during that Knicks game. As both an opportunity to try Storify and to show some of the feelings/emotions surrounding the issue. I'm sure I'll go back and forth on this, but I think the Celtics have reached the point where trading Rondo for a less flashy, straight ahead point guard might be a better option for the team.
Like this or this or this (probably unrealistic, but I can dream).