"Rondo, quite frankly, I'm talking personality now, Rondo reminds me a lot of Larry Bird. Larry could be very moody. Some days he'd be hilarious with us… engaging with us… but other days he just kept to himself. Larry never liked big crowds. Whenever there was a big hoard of media around you could see him stiffen, you could see his back tighten up. I saw the same thing with Rondo today. When he came out of the locker room to meet the media, there were just three or four and he was ok, and then the minute the swarms you could see him tighten up. So I'm not going to beat him up too much for that. But listen.. he needs to be disciplined, he needs to have control of himself. and I think he knows that. And I think if he does that, it's hard to argue too much with the results."
I love Larry Bird. LOVE him. The man did indescribable things an unbelievable amount of times. He is, as I like to say, in the Hall of Fame's Hall of Fame. But I'm sure if you talked to some of the people who stood next to Jackie MacMullan when she covered Larry, they'd use some stronger words than "moody." Hell, she might too if you caught her after a couple of beers at The Fours.
Which makes me so happy that Twitter didn't exist back then. Because as much as I'm addicted to Twitter (seriously, I have a problem), I hate it for allowing overreactions to spread like wildfire. I shudder to think at how Larry Bird would have been treated in the social media space.
Now, I should clarify. like Jackie, that I'm also just talking about Rondo's demeanor. I'm in no way trying to compare the players (which is impossible anyway) or their impact on the franchise (which is WAY too soon in Rondo's case) or anything other than how they carry themselves. And sometimes, Rondo carries himself in a way that is… oh… let's go ahead and call it "word stronger than moody."
So today, when Paul Flannery was talking to Rondo about coming off the suspension and this exchange happened…
Question: Do you feel like you let your teammates down?
Rondo: No. Do you feel like I let them down?
Question: Do you have anything to prove?
Rondo: I don’t have anything to prove. Why would I have anything to prove? I just want to win. That’s it. I’m confused why you guys would think I have anything to prove. It’s a game I’ve been playing my entire life. The world knows what I can do. I’m just going to out do and play and do what I do best and be the best point guard in the NBA.
… I could see the reactions about Rondo's attitude ranging from confusion to frustration. Especially when we caught a glimpse of Rondo's actual maturity and contrition after Game 2. But the simple fact is the Rajon Rondo you, I and the media see is rarely the Rondo Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen see. Media Rondo can be a bit of a prick. And maybe locker room Rondo can be too, but he's doing it fun with the rest of the guys who can probably be real pricks too. (here's a tip: All these guys are. Even the nice guys. Locker rooms are that way.)
My point here is not to defend Rondo and say "hey you guys, stop being mean!" My point is that some of our heroes were the same way. Some of the guys we hold in the highest regard were also sometimes petulant or publicly douchey. Rondo, despite some arguments, isn't all that different than the guys some people say he "should be more like."
Doc Rivers says it all the time. We're watching Rondo grow up in front of our eyes. He's growing up under the white-hot spotlight of the most storied franchise in his sport. That spotlight, unfortunately for him, also shows us all his warts. And Twitter lets us blast his complexion, in real time, every time a new wart pops up. So even if Larry had a lot of the same warts… the lighting in this town was a lot better in the 80's.