Rajon Rondo returned from his two game suspension yesterday, but didn’t speak… thus raising the anticipation for his gripping comments today about his absence from the team.
“I went to Mexico, couple days, watched the games,” Rondo deadpanned in his first meeting with reporters since last Thursday. “It was cool.”
And thus began the song and dance between Rondo and the media that has come to define his career. Rondo’s disdain for the process has been evident for some time. It’s not a personal vendetta against anyone in particular. It’s just that Rondo despises the constant rigmarole of the post-game/post-practice sessions. On a bad day, you get unusable, one-word answers. On a good day, you get a more playful Rondo…. which is to say he’d rather screw with people to see how he can steer the conversation.
It’s not the reporters’ fault. They have jobs to do. They want to ask a few questions… get some quotes… and write their stories. A player being an asshole is the last thing they need. But it’s not entirely incumbent on players to be amenable to the process.
When a reporter asks if Rondo’s learned any lessons or if he’s sorry, it’s not a question aimed at probing or getting to the heart of the matter. It provides an easy headline.
“Rondo not sorry for suspension”
Which then drives the pro-Rondo/anti-Rondo factions to square off and quibble.
“What’s he got to be sorry for?”
“He’s a selfish prick that cost his team!”
“He stood up for a teammate”
“He screwed the team by missing two games!”
And that drives page views and comments… and the dance continues.
That’s not to say that Rondo toys with everyone like a mad puppeteer at every turn. He’s been better this season than he has in seasons past. But he’ll never be the quote machine some guys are. He’ll never fully cooperate with everyone. And that colors reporters opinions of him… which colors some columns.
There’s no doubt Rondo can be a prick. But Larry Bird was a prick, too. And I know people bristle over that comparison, but get over it…. it’s true. Don’t pretend that I’m comparing their on-court performance. Larry Bird could often be as much of an asshole as Rondo is today. Larry got more of a pass because (a) Twitter and blogs didn’t exist to horribly over-analyze these things and give fans an instant, anonymous forum to spew knee-jerk criticism and (b) Bird is a better overall player than Rondo right now. The better you are, the more you can get away with.
Part of me wishes more guys were like Rondo. I like my players a little ornery. But I realize this is me drifting off into a “I wish things were the way they were” mode. I miss the days where that fracas that cost Rondo two games would have been no more than a personal foul. Some of the toughness of these guys has been stripped from the game.
It’s no surprise to me that flopping became an epidemic in the NBA. The league became so pussified that the constant whining, crying, and, ultimately, pretending to be hit was rewarded. Back in the day (here I go again) a flopper would be dealt with accordingly. As Tommy has said many times on broadcasts, a good stomp on the chest would end the flops pretty quickly.
But I digress. Maybe my personal affinity for Rondo is partly due to the fact that he’s not afraid to fuck with anyone. You could be a 6′ 10″ meat head, or a 5′ 9″ beat writer. You are equally in Rondo’s cross-hairs.
Because all Rondo really wants to do is play basketball. The rest is bullshit to him. And I can appreciate that.