Rajon Rondo: Star of the Future. That was what fans, experts and undoubtedly people around the league touted the flashy point guard almost as soon as he pulled a Celtics jersey over his head. It seemed as though he fit in like a puzzle piece during the fruitful years of the Big Three, always making that silky smooth assist, scoring points almost at will, and exploiting one-on-one matchups with relative ease, faking out his defender and then Road Runner-esquely dashing towards the basket to swish the net for two.
At one time, there was no doubt that he was the complete package for the team and fit their style of play perfectly. The one problem? His attitude. Just this year alone, an NBA Scout told ESPN that No. 9 was not only selfish and overrated but "awful."
"Three years ago, I was the only scout saying Rondo is overrated, and I was crucified for it," the scout said. "I was saying he was awful. I think he's a selfish player. He's only going to pass it to you if he thinks he can get an assist. I've seen him come out for pregame warm-ups with his shoes untied, shooting lefty foul shots. For him to come out for a game with that attitude makes me question his work ethic. I've never liked his game."
"If you play with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen at close to their peak, they're going to raise everyone's game. Defensively, Rondo's a bit of a gambler, and I don't think his defense is all that. If I was starting a team and had my choice of any point guard, he would be 40th. I mean it. I'd take some backups before him."
Even still, the consensus of many (including myself) was that he would be a cornerstone of the future.
Now, you bring in a highly-touted rookie named Marcus Smart into the equation. A former Oklahoma State Cowboy, Smart made waves right from the get-go in 2012-13, tallying 15.4 points, 4.3 assists and three steals per contest. You know that old saying about a sophomore slump? Smart steered clear of that trend, scoring 18 points and dishing out 4.8 assists per game. His 2.9 assists per game were down from the previous campaign, but his energy and explosiveness remained at a consistent level.
Those attributes are exactly what Gang Green need as they look to build themselves back up to a championship-caliber team. In other words, Smart and Rondo are exact opposites (as far as we can tell up to this point.) Smart seems like the yin to Rondo's yang: fierce and tenacious vs. quiet and reserved. As mentioned above Rondo is known to take plays off at times, not seeming to give it his all. Brad Stevens liked what he saw from Smart and said as much to the Boston Globe in June.
"He's come in here twice in the last three weeks, said Stevens, "and we've absolutely fallen in love with his leadership and his work ethic and his spirit and how he goes about things."
This piece may seem fiercely pro-Smart but believe me I have not forgotten about what Rondo has done during his time here. After all, four straight All-Star appearances (2010-13) , an NBA Championship (2008) and his masterpiece of a game in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat can't be ignored, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. However, there is an equally exciting player waiting in the hallowed halls of the TD Garden, one who MAY become the face of the franchise.
If the Celtics want to quicken the rebuilding process, they need to trade Rondo. Yes, I said it. They need to trade Rajon Rondo and do it now. Do it while his value is high. What if he gets hurt next season somehow? Then what will his value be? Until then, he is slowing down the rebuilding process and delaying the future, one that looks bright.
Rondo may be one of the best in the game, but there is a good chance the future will be brighter. After all, it takes a team, not just one player to win rings.