This is the point in the NBA offseason where we start pulling storylines out of our nether regions. The explosion of player movement consumed July. The analysis and residual minor-deals carry us through to the Hall of Fame inductions. And then we have fun the week after by debating things like "All-Time" teams.
But then this part of the year comes around. Lucky for us Celtics fans, we've got a guy still playing ball. And boy are we taking advantage of Rajon Rondo's time on Team USA. Because now we're all sinking our teeth into the debate du jour: Should Rondo even be on this team?
Stop it. Of course he should. I know, I know. I've heard the argument before.
"He's played 100 games in each of the past 3 seasons… he needs a break."
Yeah, like basketball players don't play basketball in the offseason. And honestly, this argument is funny to me because if Rondo was caught on video sitting on his ass somewhere and doing nothing… people would scream "he needs to get into a gym… he needs to practice his shooting!!" So somehow, people want players to hang around a basketball court, run through drills, but not ACTUALLY play basketball.
First, let's allay the fears of Rondo getting burned out by all this basketball he's playing. In the first Blue/White scrimmage in Vegas, Rondo played 29 minutes. In the second one, he played 20. And against France, he played just under 19.
Watch out… don't wear this guy out!
The fact is, Team USA is a deep squad that will count on its versatility and talent to wear down the competition. It's not your traditional international squad. Instead, it will hit opponents with waves of attack. And that means Rajon can go hard for 5 or 6 minutes tops and then grab a seat while someone like Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose does the same. Rondo won't be playing any more in these games than he would in any of the pick-up games that you never hear about but actually do happen. In fact, he'd probably play more in those clandestine runs because there's no coach to tell him to sit.
So don't worry about the minutes Rondo's logging on those 24 year-old legs of his. Be thankful for it. Because instead of unstructured run, he's playing ball under the auspices of Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Jay Triano.
And that's part of the real reason we want this kid… and he is still a kid… playing for this team.
Doc Rivers and his staff is the only coaching staff Rajon Rondo has ever known in the NBA. And while Doc has imparted some great knowledge on the kid… being around all these other coaches and coaching styles will only help spur some growth. Just learning how to run an offense under Mike D'Antoni will be a great experience for Rondo as he learns a couple of new wrinkles. And picking up some zone defense principals under Boeheim can help him add a trick or two to his defensive repertoire. There are a lot of coaches with a lot of experience that will see things slightly differently than Doc… and teach Rondo those differences.
And really, all he needs to learn is ONE new thing. Just one. Coming to Boston with ONE new trick… ONE new twist… will help him and the entire team.
But he'll probably come back with more than that. Because beyond an All Star cast of coaches, he's playing with some of the greatest players in the league. He's playing along side Chauncey Billups every day in practice… learning from a clutch team leader. He's talking to Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook every day… learning a little something about how THEY play the position. And on top of that, he's running pick-and-rolls with guys like Kevin Durant and Danny Granger… two stud wing players who play the game a little differently. And all it takes is that little bit of something Rondo hasn't seen before to make that light bulb go off in his head.
Yes, Rondo will be teaching other guys things too… but he'll also see the game in a way he hasn't seen it before. At 24, there's a LOT of growing left for Rajon as an NBA player. Hell, he's still a good 3 or 4 years from really hitting his prime as a point guard. NOW is the time for learning. This is an opportunity that HAD to be taken.
It's no wonder Doc Rivers gave this his blessing. Because he knows that after all this time, Rondo's learned most of what he's going to learn from Doc. This was a chance for Rondo to go into a new environment of structured basketball so he could learn a bunch of new things. Then when Rondo comes to camp, he can start applying some of that knowledge.
A different perspective on anything, not just basketball, can help a person grow and see things in an entirely new way. For Rondo, he's literally got dozens of people involved with Team USA to give him that different perspective. From how to play… to how to carry himself… to how to deal with adversity… he's learning a lot of new things that will help him grow as a person and as a player. And that's only going to help the Boston Celtics.