It was a very long, very hard season for Rajon Rondo. It may well prove to be one of the most important of his career.
Consider the circumstance for a moment. Rondo lost the two best performing teammates he's ever had (and perhaps will ever play with again). One of them was by most accounts his best friend on the team (marking the 2nd time he's said goodbye to his closest teammate via trade). He also lost the only NBA coach he's ever played for - a guy that he refers to as a father figure and friend that he still keeps in contact with.
He was stuck rehabbing his knee while the team and fans waited impatiently for him to return. He wisely took his time returning in order to make sure his body was right - despite a competitive drive that made him want to help his teammates.
By the time he finally did arrive, he was greeted with questions about tanking and fans not really interested in wins. He was treated to what seems like his 8th year of rampant trade rumors and speculation. He posted some of his lowest numbers of his career while working himself back into game shape and situationally resting his rehabbed knee.
He had to get used to a new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive systems, new teammates, and lowered expectations. Next year figures to include more change and there's always that chance that he could finally be traded elsewhere.
So what did it all mean? Was it all just a big waste of time? Would it have been better just to fast forward to next season and never have bothered with this one? I don't think so. I think he learned a lot and perhaps even grew a lot.
Obviously I don't know the man and probably never will. But a lot has been written and said about his personality over the years and he has described himself as being "stubborn" and "difficult to coach." Apparently he's clashed (at least initially) with every coach he's had from high school right on up to Doc Rivers. So it was a legit concern for people to see him paired up with a guy that had no NBA coaching experience.
By most outward accounts, Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo got along just fine. Perhaps the lone exception was the "Birthdaygate" situation that probably was overblown. (Of course if anything happens between Rondo and Stevens from now on, this may retroactively be pointed to as the beginning of the end).
Rondo and Stevens each have calculating minds and both are known for a fierce competitive streak. It was just 30 games, but they were around each other for the whole year and it seems like they were on the same page. While he was injured, Rondo even played the role of assistant coach and talked about someday becoming a head coach himself after his playing days.
These are the kinds of things that cross one's mind when he has a lot of time on his hands. Rondo certainly had that over the summer and well into the season. For a guy that's always 3 steps ahead, that must have been frustrating, humbling, and in the end character building. Nobody likes lessons like that, but begrudgingly we often look back on rough times in our live and admit that we came out better for it in the long run.
Rondo is still going to be Rondo. He's going to zig when you expect him to zag. He's going to drop triple doubles just because he can. He's going to give one word answers to questions from the media when the questions aren't interesting enough to warrant more. And more often than not, he's going to be the best, most exciting player on the court for either team playing.
Still, he's a year older and perhaps many years wiser now. He's been through the worst case scenario for a player and handled himself as well as you'd expect. Assuming he doesn't get traded he'll have a clean slate and a new set of teammates to run with next season. He's still got a long career ahead of him and his legacy as a player and hopefully as a Celtic is stretched out before him.
This past year was a rebuilding year for the Celtics, but it was also one for Rajon Rondo as well. He rebuilt his knee, and he developed as a leader as well as a player. So it wasn't all for naught. It will be interesting to read the next chapter of this book.