Rajon Rondo ranks 13th in Bill Simmons's annual list of players with the most trade value. He's right behind Russell Westbrook:
Westbrook gets the edge only because he's still playing on his rookie contract ($9 million through next year). Meanwhile, Rondo may have replaced Gary Payton as the all-time Table Test guy: Has anyone in basketball history ever brought more things to the table and taken more stuff off the table? In Sunday's Miami win alone, he finished with a triple-double, demanded to cover LeBron and disrupted him for a couple of quarters … and in the last few minutes, Miami played 40 feet off him and dared him to win the game. In close games, Celtics fans are an emotional mess: We want Rondo to shoot, we don't want him to shoot, we don't know what the hell we want.
The enduring Rondo question: Does he get enough done in those first 44 minutes (routinely spectacular, consistently excellent) to offset the last four minutes (when his outside shooting, porous free throw shooting and fear of getting fouled become such major liabilities) and the strategic conundrums he inadvertently creates (like when smart teams leave Rondo alone and use his defender as a double-teamer/extra rebounder)? I honestly don't know the answer. I just know that, when he shoots the ball in a big spot, I want him to shoot it … but I'm always surprised when it goes in. That's why I couldn't nudge him past Westbrook or these next two guys.
That's fairly accurate and funny analysis of Rondo's game, although I'm not sold on the Gary Payton comparison. Maybe because I don't recall the early years of Payton's career.
As for other Celtics on the list: Paul Pierce is 17th and Kevin Garnett is 28th. Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis made honorable mention.
After the jump, Simmons' defense of KG.
Of course, you can't mention Kevin Garnett in a sports column anymore without mentioning how much everyone hates Kevin Garnett. Since joining the Celtics, he's slowly morphed into the least-liked superstar in the league, this generation's version of Rick Barry or Isiah Thomas. That's been devastating for me for two reasons: He plays for my favorite team, and more importantly, that Barry/Isiah spot was supposed to go to Kobe. How did this thing flip so fast? Every day, I get at least one e-mail from a reader wondering, "How can you root for Kevin Garnett?"
My answer: He's on my team. That's how. I would have loved Bill Laimbeer if he played for the Celtics. I would have loved Thurman Munson had he switched teams with Carlton Fisk in 1971. I would have loved Peyton Manning if he had been switched with Tom Brady in 2002. Your guys are your guys — as long as they're on your team, they become family the same way your annoying aunt, blowhard uncle or black-sheep cousin is family. I don't think KG called Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient, just a "f—— cancer." I don't think KG intentionally punched Channing Frye in the nuts, and even if he did, who cares? It's Channing Frye! I just know that Garnett plays for my team, always tries hard, cares about his teammates, doesn't care about his own stats, and if he happens to be a crazy person, then so be it. Remember, we live in a world in which Lakers fans cheered Sasha Vujacic and his hairnet … for years.
Besides, Garnett never changed … his circumstances changed. You knew him for years and years as the tortured soul stuck with lousy teammates in a small market watching his prime waste away, so you felt bad for him, and you either overlooked some of the crap he pulled (like when he punched out a scrub teammate named Rick Rickert) or didn't even know about it. Now he's in Year 4 starring for a signature contender, constantly appearing on national TV and being immersed in 24/7 sports coverage in which every foible is dissected Zapruder-style. Anyone who followed basketball could see this coming. The same thing that makes Garnett great (his intensity) also leads to casualties (everything else). Just know that if he played for your team, you would love this bald, blathering maniac just as much as Boston fans do. You would.
I'm starting to wonder if the "KG was always like this" defense is a cop-out. If no one really watched him play, night-in and night-out, then how do we know he was a prick? Are there any die-hard T-Wolves fans out there who can answer this question?
Cue the hate mail….