The most shocking thing that happened Sunday during Rondo's virtuoso performance, for me at least, was during one of those pre-recorded midgame interviews with Doc Rivers. The interview immediately began with Doc being questioned about Rondo's job stability and rumors of his petulance, as it is perhaps the biggest story in the NBA as the trade deadline nears. "Rondo is the smartest player I've ever coached," Rivers said "Which is both a good and a bad thing".
The way Rivers is describing Rondo makes the latter sound like an eccentric genius, a la Rick Nash or Nikola Tesla, which of course is a simultaneously flattering and damning description. Much has been made about Rondo's personality, which has sparked the rumors that the Celtics are looking to trade him. He's been called "stubborn and high maintenance", a truly curious description of an NBA superstar. Because in reality, aren't they all?
The NBA, more than any other league, is full of athletes who are slightly left of whatever is considered the center (Shane Battier? George Mikan?). The number of players who have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot to the point that it is a miracle that they have any circulating blood there -- and still have jobs -- is staggering. The fact that Baron Davis is still employed by any NBA team is remarkable. DeShawn Stevenson is an egomaniac who is terrifying and I hope never reads this. DeMarcus Cousins was the first half temperamental MVP, and the Kings still employ his services.
Whether it is a dearth of talent in the NBA or what, teams still rely and depend on players who are headstrong and obdurate. That the Celtics are allegedly so offended by Rondo's personality leads me to believe that either they are exaggerating or as Bob Cousy put it, have found out Rondo is a serial killer on the side (then again, that wouldn't matter because you know, Kevin Garnett). Everyone in the NBA is somewhat off-kilter or somewhat rebellious. Rondo's prime offenses appear to be that he sees himself as the smartest player on the court, and that whatever he wants to do is the right choice. This is obviously an extremely arrogant thing to presume, but it is likely true. Through his play, Rondo has made it clear that he is the best player on the Celtics, and it isn't too far-fetched to assume that the things he says and wants are probably right most of the time.
His 17-18-20 brilliance Sunday proves this, and proves that when he feels like it, Rondo is possibly the most dazzling (I hate this adjective, because it makes it sound like I'm describing Mariah Carey, but I'm running out of adjectives) player in the NBA. As Bill Simmons tweeted, it was Rondo's "Don't **** TRADE ME!!!!" game, a game where Rondo seemed to make any discussion of a trade seem obsolete and totally ridiculous.
The problem with that theory is that Rondo's game only increases his trade value, as SI.com's Ian Thomsen points out (Dang it, Ian! I had this theory planned out since yesterday!). Teams are more likely to overlook Rondo's attitude issues if Rondo has the potential for games like the one he had on Sunday, and would offer more for Rondo's services if they believe his play overshadows any extraneous issues. Rondo's game, at first appearing to be a blessing for Celtics fans, could potentially bring forth the extinction of his services.
As NBA.com's David Aldridge notes, the apparent "dynamics" issue Rondo and his teammates allegedly have becomes irrelevant when you consider that most of the non-Rondo members of the team will be gone after this season, and if Rondo is moved to appease them it's ridiculous. It would be unjust if that's the justification for Rondo's trading, and wouldn't make any sense for a team that desperately needs to be looking toward to the future.
What appears to be the case with these Rondo rumors is that Ainge isn't conducting a firesale, and is subliminally letting the world know Rondo would be available if a sweetheart deal presents itself (thanks to CelticsBlog EIC Jeff Clark for that theory, exchanged over email). Any rumor of Rondo being "openly shopped" seems false at this point, and if Rondo was traded the Celtics would need some large in return. After Sunday's game, though, one would think teams would be more willing to give the heavy asking price.
I'm sure Rondo's personality issues are at least a part of the rumors of his tradability, as it has been a long-lying undertone in the modern day Celtics that his issues exist. There probably wasn't a specific incident that set these rumors off, but rather a build up of confrontations and disagreements. But again, which NBA player isn't suspect to outbursts or irrational behavior? The difference between Rondo and everyone else is that he has the talent to justify his irrational and sometimes cocky behavior.
Of course the X-factor in all this is general manager Danny Ainge, the last unpredictable man in professional basketball, a man who makes Metta World Peace's antics seem contrived. It will come down to what Ainge wants, and that usually is never what anyone is expecting.
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