Now that just about every NBA writer and blogger have (rightfully) blasted Rajon Rondo for his boneheaded emotional eruption in Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, the most important aspect of the situation now becomes: how does Rondo respond? Losing his composure, Rondo bumped official Marc Davis and nearly bumped the Celtics into an 0-2 hole that would be very difficult to crawl out from. It's ironic that the NBA's 2011-2012 assist champion has now been assisted by several people since Bump-Gate. But will Rondo now return the favor to his team, much like he has all season long?
Already heading into Game 2 without Ray Allen and dropping Game 1, Paul Pierce put on a performance for the ages to win Game 2, tie up the series, and no doubt it was an assist to Rondo. Several post game interviews with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Keyon Dooling to name a few, noted how they all "won it for Rondo" and that they "had his back." His coach and his teammates tossing out the figurative dimes just like Rondo tossed alley-oops and no-look passes to them. Sometimes when we read these quotes or watch them speak, eyes will roll and thoughts like "ehhh just more canned responses" creep in. It's human nature to do so but in this case it didn't feel that way. Maybe because all of those guys have been there before.
Pierce got booted in Game 1 last year against Miami and we all know his infamous actions in Game 6 of the 2005 playoffs vs Indiana. KG got suspended for throwing an elbow at Quentin Richardson at the end of Game 1 against Miami in 2010. Ray Allen, if you recall, once elbowed Anderson Varejao in the man region (although I'm willing to bet several other players thanked Ray for this). The point is, they all know the feeling. They also know how important it is to have Rondo back and in the right frame of mind.
In the hours leading up to Rondo's suspension, a lot of people speculated he could be suspended for more than one game. One could argue that Stu Jackson and David Stern gave Rondo an assist by giving him the minimum of one game. There was even the requisite chatter of "well if this were the regular season, he would have got two or three games." It's quite possible, especially when you consider that he got two games just this season for tossing a ball at an official.
Following that boneheaded play in Detroit, Rondo sat and watched his team get clobbered by Dallas and Oklahoma City. His response then? He's been locked in an as consistent as ever, so much so that he has reeled off 23 straight games (including 28 of 30) of double-digit assists, not seen in the NBA since John Stockton was doing it in 1992. He torched the Knicks, Heat and Hawks with triple-doubles in the time span as well, earning praise from his coach along the way.
Today on his weekly interview, Doc Rivers probably provided the biggest assist of them all to Rondo when he stated that He was standing outside the bus door, waiting for every teammate, and shook their hand and said, 'Thank You'."
Doc is a great coach for several reasons and this is a prime example of one of them. Doc may be a nickname, but in terms of NBA psychology, he's not only a Ph. D., but he really could open his own university instructing others on how to deal with some rather large egos/personalities from within, or through the media. By revealing this story, Doc assisted Rondo by painting him in a much better image to those who are still furious with him.
His teammates (led by Pierce's instant classic performance), his coach and the NBA front office have all assisted Rondo in some way or another. Recent history (as in this season) has shown that Rondo can bounce back from this and play very well. History also shows that the Celtics have had some huge duds at home following a huge road game. In that magical 2010 run that just fell short of a title, it happened twice: the first time was absorbing the worst home defeat in franchise history against Cleveland in Game 3 after a stunning win in Game 2. The second was coming out with a lazy approach in Game 3 in the Finals against LA after an exhilarating Game 2 win.
Pierce can't carry the Celtics like he did every game or even every other game. Doc can only prepare them. It's now up to Rondo to reciprocate to his teammates and his coach by going out there in Game 3 and siezing this huge opportunity. Instead of being known as a player with a bad attitude (fairly or unfairly) he has a chance to move forward from that and force people to re-write new stories of redemption. As odd as he is, I wouldn't be shocked if he did just that.