We are told on a daily basis, and possibly hourly basis if you live within the radio frequency range of Boston, how great or how bad Rondo is. The constant bombardment of shoulder angels and devils makes it all the more difficult to form opinions of our own.
Even with him tearing his ACL and not having played basketball in three weeks, Rondo is still the dominant discussion topic for the Boston Celtics.
It is a shame that we have to argue about him now, while he is out and unable to defend himself on the court. It is a greater shame, because he should have been starting the All-Star Game, instead of the punch line that was Chris Bosh.
All this Rondo talk has really come to a head now, because as NBA fans, we often make snap judgments. In a world where we can read a new story every couple seconds, or toggle between radio and television analysts from our couch, opinions have to be made now.
The facts we are currently drawing on are that the Boston Celtics lost their sixth straight game to the Atlanta Hawks the night Rondo suffered his torn ACL. That same game, the Celtics held a 27-point lead and couldn't hold on, forcing Rondo to play 45 minutes and ultimately get hurt. That string of losses contained embarrassments to the Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
More facts: The (almost) same Boston Celtics reeled off seven straight wins and eight of nine before the All-Star break. That run started just two days after the game against the Hawks.
The Celtics are 28-24 now and have climbed into the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. That is a major improvement over the 20-23, No. 8 seed that Rondo was a part of. Finishing eighth in the conference almost guarantees a date with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. A No. 7 seed would net a matchup with a dangerous but unproven New York Knicks team if the season ended today.
So, the snap judgment is that Rondo is expendable, that he isn't wanted nor needed anymore, and finally, that he is not a franchise player because the C's are winning without him.
Take away for a moment the fact that Rondo isn't really treated like a franchise player; he is the 46th-highest-paid player in the league and the third highest on his own team. He makes less than guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Ben Gordon—are these franchise players?
Of course not, but Rondo asked for this.
Because of his insistence on being labeled and the play to back it up, we took hold to the idea that he was a franchise player, or at least he should be. For a couple years now, everyone has been trying to convince himself that the Celtics were Rondo's team.
That "everyone" includes folks like Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers. Even when all our eyes told us maybe he wasn't ready, he had to be the franchise player.
So, how does a team go 8-1 without its franchise player?
Celtics players can say they are playing for Rondo, and analysts can continue citing the Ewing Theory, but at certain point, facts will outweigh the words of players, coaches and pundits.
At 8-1, those facts are already starting to dent the outer shell of all this. We don't have enough facts yet, and this run can still be explained away with Rondo not looking bad.
To answer the essential question of this article, we must ask what makes a player a franchise player? We've already taken the financial factor into the equation, so what else?
My major avenue, down which a player must travel to earn this title, is winning in the postseason. Without postseason wins, really, what good are you?
Entertainment is certainly a factor, because players that entertain bring fans to the seats and the pro shops. Those players keep franchises going, but without postseason wins, you aren't a full-fledged franchise player in my book. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love still have some work to do.
Rajon Rondo bridges that gap, though.
He is wildly entertaining and has the ring and track record to hold his own. One of the most exciting individual game performances one can have is a triple-double. Rondo has 28 in his career. He posted five this season, including earning one in each of the two games leading up to his injury.
Rondo averaged 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game in the 2012 playoffs. He scored 20.9 points per game against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
His last NBA Finals appearance came in 2010 against the Los Angeles Lakers. In that series he averaged 13.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Franchise players love the spotlight of the playoffs, and Rondo has a 54-39 record in the postseason. Since he joined the Celtics, they have not had a losing record in any postseason.
Is an 8-1 record since he went down with a season-ending injury enough to offset all the rest of these numbers?