Complex is a perfect word to define Rajon Rondo. His game is complex: no one plays quite like him—he throws complex passes, drives to the basket in complex ways and makes finishes around the basket that can only be described as, well, complex.
Rondo’s personality is complex, too. He’s been described by others as petulant, moody, stone-faced and stubborn, yet deep down he’s a warrior and a fiery competitor that plays a game so unselfishly that he needs to have his own offensive game urged out of him.
The question of if Rondo is mature enough to be the locker room leader of the Celtics is complex as well. Sure, outwardly you can see Rondo taking steps towards asserting himself to be a better leader, like organizing this flag football game for his Celtics teammates this offseason.
But to really answer a question like that, you’d need to spend weeks embedded in the Boston Celtics locker room. You’d need to travel with the team on road trips, attend shoot-arounds, eat meals with the team and really ingratiate yourself with all things Boston Celtics to fully understand complex team dynamics such as locker room leadership.
Leadership, however, does not put the ball in the hoop, and the NBA boiled down to its most basic state is about winning games. That is something the Rondo led Boston Celtics have done prolifically.
Which leads to a deeper question about Rondo’s maturity to lead the locker room—does it matter?
Last postseason the Celtics came the closest to toppling the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat and Rondo was (at times) the best player on the floor, including King James himself.
Maturity and locker room leadership from Rondo would certainly be a welcomed addition and a natural evolution of his personality, but in the grand scheme of things, it just does not matter and here’s why.
- There’s something to be said for on court leadership and in that area Rondo is the unmatched leader on the Celtics. There’s a reason Rondo was being talked about as a possible MVP candidate this season, and it’s because his individual play has never been better. When Boston acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to assemble their version of a “Big Three”, Rondo was the shy and mercurial point guard was often considered the reason the Celtics would fall short of a championship. The script has now been flipped in Boston now and any Celtic championship that comes along this time will be because of Rondo, not in spite of him.
- Kevin Garnett: from everything that's been said about KG by past teammates and coaches, there may not be a better locker room leader in the game today. Being the point guard and arguably the team’s most important player will always entitle Rondo to a modicum of natural leadership, but as long as Garnett is donning the green, the locker room will be his.
Ultimately for the Celtics to make any noise in the Eastern Conference this year, they’ll need Rondo to lead by continuing to play his fearless brand of basketball that only he can replicate. Being a better teammate in the locker room will help, but producing 15 point, 12 assist and five rebound type of performances that he’s so famous for, is the type of leadership Boston needs the most.
Being a team’s best player and unquestioned leader on the court, yet a moody and sometimes disengaged locker room leader off the court is a complex scenario. Sounds like the perfect job for Rajon Rondo.