How can the word “frustrating” even enter into a discussion with a player so talented and so productive?
We all know of talented players who wasted their God-given abilities, and never amounted to much. We also know of players who weren’t so talented but who were productive beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. But the pantheon of legends is typically reserved for the players who are truly blessed, and work tirelessly to get better, not only the best they can be, but the best anyone has ever seen, doing something, perhaps many things, better than anyone else who has played the game. Where does Rajon Rondo fit into this discussion?
Shorty has always been a favorite of mine. Back when everyone else was worried about giving a sophomore the keys to a Mercedes as the playoffs approached in 2008, I jumped in and said that it looked to me like number 9 was fully capable of driving a luxury car and then some. Early in December 2008, Rondo posted a triple double in 24 minutes. I wasn’t blowing the MVP trumpet quite yet, but I certainly was warming up to the idea.
A few weeks later Magic Johnson declared that Rondo is almost always the best player on the floor, at which point I decided it was time to take the gloves off. I mean if a Los Angeles Laker can go to bat for a Boston Celtic, then shouldn’t one of our own be willing to do the same?
In September 2009, I reported the musings of Doc and Danny, who apparently were comparing Shorty with Tony Parker, concluding that the only thing separating Rondo from the next level was a reliable jumper. A couple months later, at the start of yet another season, I suggested it was time for Rondo to think like D.Wade, and, if he did, the MVP would be his. Rondo’s attention span, moodiness, and perhaps immaturity interfered with my quest, but during his best moments, I continued to make comparisons I saw fit, and what I saw was a lot of Magic Johnson in our boy.
Last Spring, amid the Celtics’ resurgence, I revisited the idea of Shorty as MVP candidate, and how the presence and renaissance of Kevin Garnett might impact the media’s valuation of our point guard. Over the summer, I wondered why it was that the Celtics were thought to have had such a great offseason, and yet Vegas didn’t really see us as a contender. The answer was we didn't have an MVP candidate on our team. Over a series of posts, I echoed the sentiments of Doc and Danny. Steve Nash won MVP without scoring 20 points per game. But the deal with Steve Nash is despite the pedestrian scoring figures, no one doubts the dude can shoot. Rondo? He scores when he gets lucky, jumper-wise, anyhoo.
Never afraid to beat a dead horse, I continued on fighting the good fight, reminding Shorty that all great players are imperfect, but that they work their tails off to make their weaknesses a strength. It may have helped this time that Doc had similar conversations with Shorty over the summer and into camp. We’ve only seen Shorty play a couple of inconsequential games. However, the Shorty I see is the Shorty I’ve been expecting to see for some time. His head is in the game, dialed in on every play. He’s looking for his J, from two or three point range, and he’s FINALLY making his free throws. He’s in command, and his confidence is off the charts.
The question, of course, is whether he can keep it up.
Sometimes the answer to these sorts of questions rests on a confluence of factors: age, maturity, and hitting the prime of your athletic prowess. And desire. You really have to want it. You have to want to be the best more than you want just about anything else in the world. The flip side is you have to hate to lose. You can’t just post a triple double and walk off the court satisfied. In the end, your best must yield a W or nobody cares. That’s a lot to carry on your shoulders. Just ask Lebron James.
In case you are wondering how old Magic Johnson was when he won his first league MVP, the answer is age 27, or the same age as Rondo today.