Jobu ponders the fate of the Celtics’ biggest star.
In case you readers haven’t noticed, the Celtics recently made a couple big ol’ move towards a complete roster rebuild. First of all, they shipped coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers for a future draft pick. Then, they went to blockbuster and traded in their Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (ok Jason Terry too) tapes to Brooklyn for a significant haul, including Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks and a bunch of future picks. Most recently, they shocked me, and I think a lot of fans, by hiring former Butler head coach Brad Stevens to take over the reigns. Do the Celtics have one more big move left to make, or should they keep the team they currently have?
First of all, my reactions to all of the roster shuffling going on: Fine. I was saddened by the Pierce trade, to the point where I questioned how into the team I’ll even be next season. I’ve calmed down from that now though. I will still miss Paul Pierce fiercely (his scent, his musk and the apartment we would have gotten together after all this was over), but I get it. It’s a business move. Also, I’m happy that Pierce is going to a good situation where he might be able to nab another ring before calling it quits.
As far as the coaching shuffle, Rivers had to go. Not because he was a bad coach, but because he didn’t want to be in Boston anymore. Like Lt. Murtaugh before him, Doc was getting too old for this shit, the “shit” in question being a rebuild. Rivers didn’t want to be a part of it, so the Celtics did good to ship him to Los Angeles for an unprotected 2015 first round draft pick. I’m also happy for Doc, because he is a great coach who is also going to a situation that could get him another, much deserved ring.
As far as the hiring of Brad Stevens goes, I love it. Here’s a guy that took a small-market college basketball team and turned them first into a lovable overachieving underdog, and then into a sudden legitimate title contender Butler made it to two straight NCAA finals, and almost beat the great Duke University in one of them. Ridiculous. To turn a program around that quickly is an incredible feat, and shows that Stevens is no stranger to building from the ground up. Granted, you kind of have to do that every few years in the college game, but it’s hard to do the first time. Stevens has to know how to motivate guys in order to get the best out of them, and that could help him really succeed in Boston. If the Danny Ainge can surround him with some quality youngsters that buy into what he’s teaching and selling, and maybe a desperate veteran or two, the Celtics won’t be rebuilding for very long. Again, I love this hire. It has actually rekindled my Celtic spirit, and now I’m really looking forward to the next season and beyond.
That brings us to the lone remaining Superstar on the Celtics, known rabble-rouser Rajon Rondo. Talent wise, there’s few players in the entire league that match Rondo. His court vision is like that of a young Jason Kidd, he passes like a young Steve Nash and he has the grit and determination of a young… well… some really gritty and gutsy guy that you remember from the old days. Also, he’s super clutch and has shown an ability to take over even playoff games when the Celtics really need a big win. Rondo has the talent to lead a young team back to prominence if he’s surrounded by the right talent and buys into what the coach is selling.
Therein lies the big question, though. Rondo, who is known just as much for his temperament and bullish behavior as he is know for his skills, has always been plagued by his reputation. Some colleges passed on him when he was in high school because of the perception of his attitude, and some NBA teams did the same in the draft. This was all because of his so-called “attitude.” That attitude has seemingly not changed very much in his pro days, as he has been suspended for clashes with refs, and even allegedly almost caused a brawl with Doc Rivers in the Celtics locker room last season.
Can Stevens somehow get through to Rondo and tap into that ridiculous talent to bring out the winner we all know lives in there? I think that’s a huge question mark at this point. I could totally see Rondo disregarding and disrespecting Stevens, who at only 36 years old, is among the younger generation of coaches in the NBA. Will the two clash like Rondo and Rivers did? Will Rondo demand a trade? Will the Celtics trade him against his wishes? Frankly, part of me is a little surprised Rondo didn’t already requested a trade after the Celtics revealed their intentions to rebuild, so I really don’t know the answer to any of those questions.
The fact that Rondo hasn’t demanded a trade already gives me hope. Maybe, just maybe, Rondo wants a team of his own. Now that the “Big Three” are all gone, Rondo is far and away the best player on this team. He’s also going to be the guy with the most big game experience on the roster. He’ll be the one the younger guys, like rookies Kelly Olynyk and Darius Johnson-Odom, look to for an example of how to act and play. He could even be the new face of the team. Or, he could clash with Stevens and the front office and be traded by the time I post this. I think both scenarios are just as likely to happen as the other. It’s really a tough call. For what it’s worth, Danny Ainge has vehemently denied that the team is looking to move Rondo, but I think anyone is for sale during the off-season.
I really hope that Rondo buys into Stevens’ program, because the two could really become superstars in this league if they work together to lead this team back to the top of the standings in a few years. I think Rondo that damn good. It remains to be seen if he can do all of that, but for now at least, it seems that that’s what everybody in the Celtics organization wants. However, if he becomes a locker room problem, the Celtics should follow the advice Sonny Red gave Cologio in A Bronx Tale. “Dump her. Dump her fast.”
Featured image courtesy of (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)
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