Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo needs to be held accountable for his actions in Wednesday night's game against the Brooklyn Nets, but the one man who should be telling him that is defending him instead. Rather than call out his star point guard for being immature, head coach Doc Rivers is supporting Rondo. He blames Nets forward Kris Humphries, whose foul on Kevin Garnett started the ruckus.
In an interview with the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI, Rivers did acknowledge that he was indeed disappointed in Rondo, but that Humphries was more guilty because of his flagrant foul.
In doing this, Rivers is keeping Rondo from maturing and becoming a complete point guard, from on-court skills to leadership in the locker room. Instead of defending him, he should be criticizing him and calling him out for his inexcusable actions.
Look at it this way. The job of an NBA head coach is to be the ultimate leader. He shows the players how to win, and stops at nothing to get the best out of his men.
That said, Rivers has indeed helped turn Rondo into one of the best point guards in the NBA. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 12.9 points per game, is leading the league in passing with 12.9 assists per contest, and is also averaging just under two steals. Production-wise, Rivers has helped turn Rondo into a star.
However, let's go back to last season. Rondo's attitude made him the subject of various trade rumors, primarily because his relationship with Rivers had become strained. This is where Rivers has failed as a coach.
Instead of turning Rondo into a positive leader who sets a good example for his teammates, Rivers has let Rondo run wild like a loose cannon. He is not being held accountable for his actions and when he comes back from his likely suspension, he'll just go back to being that same person, playing with a hot head and a chip on his shoulder.
Rondo has always been this type of player. He clashed with Tubby Smith when playing at Kentucky, and has carried his volatile attitude into the NBA.
The saddest part is that Rivers has done nothing to make an example of Rondo and show him that his personality won't fly on the professional level. If he really wants to see his point guard mature, then he'll bench Rondo for a game or two following his suspension. No minutes, just riding the pine.
Following that, Rivers should let Rondo play, but not in the starting lineup. Make him start a few games on the bench and show that he can be replaced at the point, if the Celtics so desire.
The fact of the matter is that whatever approach Rivers takes with Rondo, it needs to be different from the one he has used since 2006. Rondo is indeed very talented, but his attitude sometimes overshadows his skills. He needs to stop just being a player, and start being a leader.
Unfortunately, given how Rivers has defended him following the fight, the odds of that coming true are slim. He is going to continue to let Rondo run wild, and there's no telling where that road will lead.
The only certainty is that Rondo will never fully mature so long as Rivers coddles him, and that is a failure on Rivers' part.