Disclaimer: I'm an unapologetic fan of Rondo. I simply love watching him play and I remain very excited to see him grow as a player. Based on what I've seen on the court, I hope he's a Celtic for life. That said, I felt compelled to write this subjective article as objectively as I can.
This is one of those rumors that you can't really prove one way or another because nobody is going to come out and support it as true. You have to wonder if you keep hearing about it because someone reported it and now it gets repeated over and over again or because there's some truth to it.
There's a growing sentiment that Rondo has a bit of an attitude problem. Nobody seems to be willing to say that he's a cancer or a jerk. Just that he sometimes rubs people the wrong way. And by people I mean teammates, coaches, and management.
First lets go back in time a bit. In April, Jackie MacMullen wrote a very informative piece on Rondo. In it were some straightforward, sobering quotes about him. Here are a few.
Two seasons ago, before the banners and the plaudits and applause, when Rondo was in charge of a team that won just 24 games, he'd throw a no-look bullet and when it was dropped out of bounds he'd roll his eyes in exasperation. If he set up a shooter for the open jumper and it clanged off the rim, the shooter was subjected to the Rondo stare, a look steeped in disdain and aggravation.
Rivers hauled his supposed floor leader into his office and asked him, "Do you know your teammates hate playing with you?"
Now that was two seasons ago. He's had time to mature and grow as a player right? Well, maybe. But how about some more recent quotes.
In that same article, Ainge said the following:
"The single biggest thing with him," said Ainge, "is getting him to compete night in and night out."
That isn't about consistency so much as it is attitude. He didn't say he wasn't good every night, he said he didn't compete every night.
In early June, Bill Burt of the Eagle Tribune sat down with Doc Rivers.
DOC: When teams play the Boston Celtics the one guy they are going to help off of is Rondo."
Q: Does Rondo understand that?
DOC: "Yeah, I think he does. Rondo has a healthy ego. But he understands he has to get better on the scoring end.
Now a "healthy ego" is actually a compliment and I was careful to leave that quote in its context. But it isn't the first time we've seen that phrase associated with Rajon. Back to the MacMullen article, Perkins has this to say.
"I'm just telling you, Rajon is real cocky," said center Kendrick Perkins. "He's got swagger. The good kind."
Again, I point out to everyone that will listen that Rondo is going to be in Kendrick's wedding. So the guy must legitimately like him. But that doesn't mean that anyone else does. Maybe his ego isn't seen in quite so positive a light by everyone.
What makes me say that? Well, what prompted this article were some comments that Kelly Dwyer made Wednesday in a Ball Don't Lie chat. (I respect Kelly and I've been reading him for years. I don't take him as one that throws junk rumors out there.) I wanted to get his extended take on it, so I emailed him. Here's what he had to say.
I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they "don't like Rondo." I don't remember what I wrote during the chat, but I think I used the phrase "can't stand him," and that should be amended to "can't stand him, at times."
From what I heard in LA and ORL, Doc and the coaching staff are the most annoyed. Not enough to want him gone, mind you. And it certainly has nothing to do with the trade rumors as such.
The teammates, from what little I've heard, could give a rip at this point. They appreciate it, despite being sometimes annoyed with his on and pre-court choices.
I don't want to make it sound like this guy is a cancer, or that his jettisoning would be applauded. Far from it. He's a very headstrong person, very young, who rubs people the wrong way due to things that matter, and things that are superficial. I want to make it clear, and would appreciate it if you passed it along, that any sort of unease or behind-the-scenes bitching could (and, possibly, should) have no lasting ramifications.
Take all of this for what it is worth. Again, this subject is subjective. One person's swagger is another person's stuck up. One person's healthy ego is another person's annoying ego. Rondo has to be confident enough to not pass to whatever superstar is calling for the ball despite being in a bad position to score. But is he making decisions in line with Doc's offense or is he improvising? Nobody knows for sure except the people who would never comment directly on something like this (ie. his teammates and coaches/management).
So that leads us to the logical question: If these rumors have any truth to them, are they part of the reason that we keep hearing Rondo's name come up in trade rumors? Kelly says "no" in his quote above. I would say that his attitude alone probably isn't enough to warrant "shopping" him around the league. However, if you add it to other puzzle pieces, it might make more sense.
There's Rondo's impending contract extension ("they don’t like his contract demands first of all." - Mannix). Doc has gone out of his way to point out that Rondo has a good bit of on-court growing he needs to do. Add it up and you start to see some method to the madness.
Keep in mind, these guys are pros and they don't all have to get along all the time to do their jobs. (As Kelly mentioned: "back in 1997 no Laker liked Kobe either") On the other hand, for a team that credited Ubuntu for delivering the title in 2008, chemistry can't be overlooked.
Hopefully these rumors are being exaggerated. Hopefully I'm making too much of this. Hopefully he's grown up from a few years ago and this stuff is just conjecture from people who don't know Rondo like his teammates do. Hopefully his swagger really is the healthy kind. I hope so because I love watching Rondo play. I hope, I just don't know.