Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo Holding Each Other Back for Boston Celtics?
Rajon Rondo has been out of the Boston Celtics lineup with a wrist injury for the past eight games. Throughout these games, the Celtics have gone 6-2 with some huge wins. Rondo has certainly been missed during this stretch, but that hasn't kept the team from playing their best basketball of the season.
If Rondo can return Friday as he insists he will be able to, then there is no reason why the Celtics can't become even more dominant than in his absence.
However, in Rondo's absence, Paul Pierce has taken over the role of the primary playmaker and he has excelled in this role. And in fact, the Celtics offense has flowed much better in these past eight games and I think that is a credit to Pierce running the show.
This is not at all to say that Rondo cannot run the Celtics offense nor that Pierce is a better playmaker than Rajon, but it is saying that the Celtics have struggled to find an offensive balance with two players wanting to run the offense. So with Rondo out, and a clear one player to run the show in Pierce, the offense thrived.
Similarly, at the beginning of the season while Pierce was sidelined, the offense flowed nicely with just Rondo running it. Although they did not win a game in Pierce's absence, Rondo and the offense were still able to put up big numbers (with the exception of the loss to the New Orleans Hornets) and come close to beating good teams.
By far the worst basketball the Celtics have played this season has been with both Rondo and Pierce in the lineup, fighting for the chance to run the offense. This is not an issue of selfishness on either Rondo or Paul's part though. It makes sense that they would both want to run the offense because they both thrive individually when they are in control of the offense and can both put the Celtics in a position to win.
Unfortunately though, with both of these playmakers, only one player can run an offense. The Miami Heat have faced a similar situation with both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to run the offense. And, like the Celtics, have seen positive results with one of their playmakers, Wade, out this season.
If in fact I am right and Rondo and Pierce are holding each other back by both wanting to run the show (and I am about to present further evidence), then the question becomes: Who should be the sole leader of the offense?
When Pierce was out with his heel injury and it was Rondo as the sole playmaker, he averaged 22 points and 10 assists per game compared to his 13 points and nine assists per game sharing the offense with Pierce.
In the past eight games though, with Rondo out, Pierce has also scored 22 points per game and dished out eight assists per game in comparison to his 15 points and four assists per game with Rondo in the lineup.
So statistically, the two are nearly equal in terms of leading the offense with Rondo having a slight advantage in assists. On the other hand though, Pierce has the overall advantage with leading the team to a 6-2 record compared to Rondo's 0-3 record.
All things considered, the question of who should lead the offense becomes quite similar to the Peyton Manning-Andrew Luck debate. There can only be one quarterback and the QB runs the offense. Both Manning and Luck have proven to be great leaders of an offense. However, Manning has been leading the Colts for his entire career while Luck is still young and developing.
But, for the Colts, Luck will be the future of the franchise.
In terms of the Pierce-Rondo debate, only one of the two can lead the offense and both are well-equipped. Pierce, however, has been leading the Celtics for his entire career while Rondo is still young and developing. But Rondo, like Luck with the Colts, will one day soon be the sole leader of the Celtics. But should the process be expedited by pushing Pierce out of his role?
Do Pierce and Rondo hold each other back?
Personally, I say yes and for a few reasons. First of all, as was aforementioned, handing the keys over to Rondo will just give the Celtics a head start on the rebuilding process when Rondo will be the centerpiece of the team. Perhaps more importantly though, is that Pierce is capable of being a much better complementary player than Rondo can be.
Rondo can't stand on the perimeter and hit shots when the ball is swung his way, while Pierce can. In a similar fashion, Pierce can't see every passing lane when running the offense, while Rondo can.
And Pierce not running the offense doesn't mean that he can't try to score on his own. In fact, without the role of running the team offense, he can focus on his own offense even more. Keeping all of that in mind, it would seem that the Celtics would be best off with Rondo controlling the offense.
But that is not meant as any disrespect to Pierce; if anything, it is a credit to him. He is the best player on the Celtics and as the best player he can adapt in ways that no other player on the team can. Whether he is running the offense or a complementary part of it, Pierce will make a positive impact and that is why he is the captain.
Rondo, on the other hand, can really only thrive as the primary playmaker. And that is why he must run the offense because otherwise, his talents and Pierce's adaptability would be wasted.
It will be interesting to see what the Celtics do when Rondo returns. Hopefully they do not revert to the inefficient, doubly-led offense. And if they do designate one player to run the offense, they should pick Rondo.
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