Can the Celtics rebuild around Rajon Rondo?
Rajon Rondo is an outstanding player. He is tough as nails. He is a champion. However, over the course of his career, he has often been characterized as immature and, by his former head coach Doc Rivers, "stubborn."
So, as talented as Rondo may be, is he worth the slight baggage he brings along? Especially taking into account the fact the Boston Celtics are rebuilding, is he the player the team wants to lead a group of youngsters?
Let's examine past incidents in Rondo's career and decide for ourselves.
May 2011: Rondo throws bottle and breaks video screen during film session
In between Games 2 and 3 of Boston's second-round playoff series with the Miami Heat during 2011, Rondo became furious when his errors were being pointed out during a film session. The fiery point guard then began chastising his teammates and culminated his rage by throwing a bottle at the video screen, shattering it. He then left the facility and was rebuffed when he tried to return later.
Apparently, Rondo's breaking point was when Rivers got up and started yelling back at him, and it was at that point that many began to seriously question the relationship between Doc and his floor general.
This was the first largely publicized outburst Rajon had as a Celtic, but it would not be the last.
April 29, 2012: Rondo is ejected from playoff game and confronts cameraman postgame; gets suspended for one game
During the fourth quarter of Game 1 in the C's' 2012 first-round postseason series vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Rondo became enraged with what he thought was a bad call and made contact with an official. Rondo was promptly ejected, and he was forced to serve a one-game suspension for his wrongdoings.
It didn't end there, though.
After the game was over, Rondo (in an outfit that not even his mother could love) bristled at a cameraman filming him. He angrily walked over to confront him and insisted the man "quit filming" him.
Fortunately for Rondo, the suspension did not hurt the team, as the Celtics went on to win Game 2. Still, it was an act of selfishness that could not have sat well with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of the veterans.
January 7, 2013: Rondo is suspended for bumping another ref
Back in January, during an 89-81 Celtics win over the Hawks, Rondo made contact with another referee, and yet again it was in Atlanta (is there something in the air there?). Now this time, the "bump" was extremely subtle, and it didn't even look like No. 9 did it intentionally. See for yourself.
That being said, rules are rules, and if you make contact with an official in the NBA, you are going to get suspended.
Of course, it didn't help that Hawks GM Danny Ferry essentially snitched on Rondo by handing the refs a tape of the point guard bumping the official after the game (Ferry was actually fined $15,000 for inappropriately doing so), but, nevertheless, Rondo was banned for one contest.
June 2013: Report comes out that Rondo and Doc almost came to blows
While it's not specified exactly when this happened, apparently, Rondo and Rivers nearly came to blows after Rajon dropped the F-bomb on Doc during a team meeting.
Not surprisingly, this report surfaced right before Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and according to Chris Sheridan, part of the reason why Doc wanted out was because of Rondo.
Now I'm not sure how entirely true that is, as it seems that the primary culprit behind Rivers leaving Boston was him not wanting to be part of a rebuild, but the fact that he and Rondo almost had a fist fight is certainly alarming.
What does it all mean?
Clearly, Rondo has had his fair share of "incidents" throughout his career. He has always been known as a hot-headed player, and sometimes, he lets his temper get the better of him.
Fortunately, though, Rondo normally does not allow his mind to overwhelm him when he is on the court. His ejection in the 2012 playoffs aside, Rondo is usually level-headed in the the heat of the moment and takes his frustrations out on the opponent rather than his teammates or the officials.
Let's be real here. In the seven seasons Rajon has played in this league, was there ever a time he could legitimately be classified as a bad guy or a cancerous teammate? No. There have only been a few isolated incidents, and none of them really had a significant effect—if any effect at all—on the ball club.
The C's have won a championship and have been to two finals with Rondo, nearly making a third trip in 2012. Much of that was due to Rondo's prowess out on the floor. While he may be stubborn, he is someone who never shies away from the moment. If there is a big game, Rondo is a going to show up in a big way. The man has 10 playoff triple-doubles for crying out loud.
Should the Celtics really throw that away just because he can be a bit ornery on occasion?
Rajon has a winner's pedigree, and you need that on a young team. Also, Rondo's work ethic has never been questioned. This is a guy who wants to win at all costs, and he will not accept anything less than 100 percent effort night in and night out.
If one of his teammates isn't giving the kind of effort Rondo likes, he will let them hear about it. He may be brash in the way he goes about it, so much so that Brandon Bass once told him to "shut the (expletive) up" because Rondo wouldn't get off his case, but that's only because he desires to win.
A rebuilding team needs that mentality. So he can be a little mercurial and obstinate. So what? He doesn't have so much of a checkered past where you can say, "This guy is trouble."
Rondo isn't compiling 41 technical fouls like Rasheed Wallace did during the 2000-01 campaign. He isn't attacking fans in the stands like the man formerly known as Ron Artest. He isn't getting into trouble with the law.
No. Rondo is simply headstrong, and sometimes, you must instill that type of attitude in your teammates. Not so much that they are going haywire at the slightest provocation, but enough that they play every game with a mean streak and, most importantly, a purpose. That is what Rondo does, and he is worth every penny of any potential risks he brings along.
Speaking of being worth every penny, let's not forget Rondo's contract, either. The 27-year-old is under contract for two more years, and over those two seasons, he is making a combined $25 million.
For comparison's sake, the New York Knicks will be doling out $45 million to (probably) watch Amar'e Stoudemire sit on the bench with injuries for the same amount of time.
Taking it a step further and staying within the Celtics' own division, the Brooklyn Nets are paying Joe Johnson nearly $70 million for three more seasons.
Now look at the money Rajon is making again: $12.5 million per year over two years? That is a steal for a player of his caliber, especially during an era where laughable contracts are being handed out like Girl Scout cookies.
So the next time you think you want Boston to part ways with Rondo after he has one of his mood swings, think about all of that.
For those of you on the "we can't rebuild with Rondo" bandwagon, are you sure you want him gone?