The Celtics played the Bucks tonight, but the undercurrent flowing through Celtic Nation was all about the trade status of Rajon Rondo. Boston’s management has been ‘aggressively pursuing’ a trade, according to published reports close to the situation. There were also reports of Doc Rivers having grown tired of Rondo’s behavior – the stubbornness, the chip on the shoulder…basically, everything that makes Rondo the great player that he is. Of course any truth to those rumors would be steadfastly denied, both by Rivers and by Danny Ainge, but there is the old adage about smoke and fire and the cozy little correlation between the two.
Against this backdrop a game had to be played, and for the first two quarters the Bucks looked like a team out to prove a point. Fortunately for Boston, the game doesn’t end at halftime; in this case, the start of the second half was actually just the beginning. The Celtics used a 31-13 surge to start the second half, powering past the Bucks and then hanging on by the skin of their teeth to win a second game in two days. As for Rondo, he was able to shrug aside the trade talk and turn in another virtuoso performance, recording yet another triple-double (15-11-10), and once again reminding Rivers and Ainge of his greatness. From their vantage point they had to see Rondo for what he is – complicated and flawed, but also elite. No, he won’t ever lead the league in shooting percentage. And he may always be something of an enigma, misunderstood by the people who coach him, play with him and sign his checks. But really – if Rondo were a big-time shooter, don’t you think he’d be more Allen Iverson than a great floor general? Don’t you think the team might suffer more from his need to control the rock and get off his shots?
But this game was more than about Rondo being on the block. Kevin Garnett played with a chip of his own and played well because of it. (Try 25-10 on for size, with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.) Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass proved that the Celtics can complete when they’re both contributing off the bench, and it was good to see Keyon Dooling in the flow. (Oh, wait – you mean to tell me Brandon Bass actually started? I can’t believe that – no way, no how, not with iron man Jermaine O’Neal on the roster…okay….Brandon Bass started…and played well!)
The win gives the Celtics some much-needed momentum, but it may not do much to quiet the trade rumors…although our man Rondo shouldn’t even be on the block. If you’re going to succeed with Rondo running the show, you need to understand that you get the whole package – the good, the bad, the ugly. And you don’t need to drag his name out into public and connect it with guys like Chris Paul and Pau Gasol and the Warriors’ Mr. Curry. Rondo has great skills and intense pride, and he’s also extremely intelligent. He knows the deal. He knows what’s going on. And how can he trust his coach and basketball management after hearing these things leaked in the press?
If he’s still on the roster after March 15, listen to how much love he gets from Rivers and Ainge. A triple-double’s worth, I’m sure.