|Photo: Winslow Townson (USA TODAY)
"I haven't played defense in a couple of years," Rondo said.I knew it. We all did.
Last season, when Rondo returned from his ACL injury, people were cutting him slack, and it was rightfully so.
At that point, Celtics fans just wanted to see a healthy Rondo and weren't going to be critiquing every small or not so small thing that he did on the court.
But at the start of this season, the expectations for Rondo rose. It was one thing to see Rondo not score the ball but when I didn't see his lock down one-on-one defense, that's when I questioned his effort.
"I've been able to hide a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He's helped out, the young guy," Rondo said. "But [in Dallas] they expect me to play defense and, in the West, if you don't play defense you'll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position."Of course, Rondo is exaggerating. When the level of competition is so high, like it is in the west, he's forced to step it up on the defensive end. Rajon of course played some defense in his last years with the Celtics but it wasn't at a high level.
Rondo isn't cut out for a rebuilding team like the Celtics. He wants to win now.
Instead of giving his team a half-ass effort with hopes that the Celtics will bring in impact players, Rondo gets another chance to compete for an NBA title. He wasn't motivated in Boston, on a team that could miss out on the playoffs, so he didn't give it his all. And if that's a reason why you don't like Rondo, I don't blame you.
If Danny Ainge was able to bring in talent, we would have been witnessing the brilliant Rondo earlier this season.
Does that mean it's Danny's fault?
Absolutely not, it takes two teams to tango and unfortunately there wasn't a dancing partner out there sparking Ainge's trade interest. But who would have predicted that Rondo would ever confess to not trying?
It would have been nice if Rondo gave us a reason for why he wasn't playing defense. But I guess that would just be him stating the obvious: He wasn't inspired. When the stakes are high and he's playing in a big game, Rondo will deliver. It's what he is known for.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens chose to not directly respond to what Rondo said yesterday morning but did smile when the topic was brought up.
"I don't know the context of the discussion. I don't know the seriousness of his answer," Stevens said. "I don't really have any reaction to that. He's a really good player, and I'm certainly not here right now to be critical or analytical of his comments to the media. I think, like everybody else, I'm excited for him that he's in a great opportunity and has a great opportunity in Dallas. I hope that we play well against him tonight."Celtics, worried about shooters like Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons, challenged Rondo to shoot all night and in the process gave up a lot of made shots. Rondo had 29 points, he was 12-for-19 from the floor, 5-for-7 from the 3-point arc.
The Mavericks are 5-2 since the Rondo trade. Rondo is averaging 15 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
Rondo's brutally honest remarks about his defense will be brought up when talking about his legacy in Boston, which in some ways is already tainted. Whether it was the friction with Doc Rivers, problems with Ray Allen or the birthday party in Sacramento, Boston will always remember Rondo as a troublemaker.
But let's always remember the good side of Rondo's legacy too.
He is someone who people thought of as selfish, moody, and stubborn. But is unlike any other point guard anyone has seen before. The incredible passes, fancy layups, amazing steals and incredible playoff performances have to be remembered too.
Doc Rivers called Rondo the smartest basketball player he's ever coached. Rivers praised Rondo on his high IQ, knowledge of the game, and his knack for thinking ten steps ahead of everyone else on a basketball court.
In spring of 2008, Rondo wasn't necessarily the focal point of the Celtics offense, but, boy did he do a good job running it. Celtics couldn't have appointed a better point guard for the job to distribute the ball to future Hall-Of-Famers like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
|Photo: Mike Ehrmann (Getty Images)
Rondo should also be remembered for his battles against Lebron James like, Game 4 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals when he took it to LeBron James and the Cavs, putting up 29 points, 13 assists and 18 rebounds.
It was a much needed win, and tied the series. Or how about Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, when he scored 44 points and dished out 10 assists against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. It was one of his best games in a series the Celtics were one quarter away from winning.
We saw Rondo's career blossom, a four-time all-star who became a scoring option for the Celtics post-championship era. And even though the last year and a half weren't as shiny as the Big 3 days, we have to remember the competitive, ballsy, gutsy Rondo, one of the best point guards to ever wear a Celtics uniform.
It's the great side of Rondo. That's the reason he received a standing ovation last night at TD Garden. No matter what he did in his final years, that 17th championship banner will forever hang from the rafters.
Celtics championships don't come around often. It took nearly 20 years for 2008's title, so for that we should be thankful for Rondo's help. I think that's something that will resonate in the future, when we're reminded how tough it is to put together another championship team.
Without him, the Big 3 era wouldn't have been stretched out to five-six years. It was Rondo's game that convinced Ainge to take two-three more cracks at a title before trading away his two superstars; Pierce and Garnett. The Big 3 era ended the day the Celtics found out that Rondo tore his ACL and needed season ending surgery; seven months after he nearly propelled the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the third time in five years.
Sure, he was hardheaded and not the easiest player to play with, but for over half a decade he was the Celtics floor general who played hard and put up amazing numbers when the games mattered most.
He's a winner.
What more can you ask for?
The Celtics won't be chasing titles anytime soon. There won't be a quick-fix solution anytime soon. This is why I don't blame Ainge for trading Rondo, because Rajon, who's in his prime years, wouldn't have stayed here, and I don't blame you, Rajon. He deserves to play for a competing team, he's not going to be in his prime in a few years. It's just too bad that his finals days in Boston were abysmal.
But that's the complicated legacy Rondo leaves behind.
There's no other sports city bigger than Boston. A city that loves their sports and holds their athletes to a higher standard. Rondo gave everyone some honestly yesterday because, well, he figured, Celtics Nation deserved that much.
Next time, Rajon? Tell us something we don't already know.