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There comes a time in most players' careers when they take a pay-cut. Not a Kevin Durant, "I want to keep my super-team buddies together" pay-cut, but instead, one more necessary.  These players begin to fatigue and ache, and even if they've still got game, their ages make them less prominant than they were in their heyday. They go from the energetic calves, to the grizzled, wise bulls of the NBA, and while they may see less playing time and zeros in their bank account, their value is still acknowledged by NBA teams, in the forms of experience and basketball IQ. 

And when the Boston Celtics signed Gerald Green to a one year contract last offseason, many viewed it as just that: a short-term, strategical signing of adding a veteran presence to one of the youngest teams in the NBA. He'd get modest playing time, and would help mentor and mold the many twenty-something year old players on the C's roster. If Brad Stevens ever needed a dependable player on the court, he could toss Green out there to play efficiently. 

Well, it seems as though Gerald did his duty and filled the role that he was brought here to do, because he was voted by Celtics' players as the squads Best Teammate


Some other former Celtics were also given the superlative. Jason Terry, Big Al Jefferson, and my main man Rajon Rondo were voted as their team's best collaborators, and similarly to Gerald Green, they saw less minutes and dough than they'd seen in the past. 

But enough about those other guys, lets talk about the late, great #9, Rajon Rondo. Last season when Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler sold out and complained to the media about their less experienced teammates, Rondo publicly defended his young colleagues. Apparently, the young guys on the Chicago Bulls loved Rondo. One such player, Nikola Mirotic said (via K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune),

Along with Pau (Gasol), he's the best teammate I've ever had. I feel so comfortable with him and I think all the young guys do. He's very honest. He's talking all the time, supporting before the game, after the game, during practice. He's always positive. Even if something is not going well, he's trying to help young players. It's great to have him here.  

Rajon has gone through a lot of adversity over the past few seasons, and has been portrayed as a hard-nosed asshole who can't work nicely with others. While that's partially true, I don't think it's a reason to sit the guy on the bench like he has been sat in Dallas, Sacramento, and Chicago. Why? Because he's always had his team's best interest in mind.

It all goes awry the same way in every city: Rajon out-smarts the coaching staff, tries to adjust the game plan, is denied, and then gets really pissy. Danny Ainge once said of Rajon (via Baxter Holmes, ESPN),

He doesn't like to be told what to do. He wants to be coached, but when you coach him, you'd better know what you're talking about. And even then, he still may challenge you. The question always was, 'Is he a good enough player to behave the way he does?'

He has a hard time working with people who don't acknowledge his smarts, and most of the time, the people who disregard his brains are his coaches. I guess technically speaking he oversteps authority, but his coachs' stubbornness also play a factor in the disputes. Rondo will sniff out the other team's offensive scheme or realizes a play that will expose an opponent's defense, so he'll change the play that his team is running to a more suitable one. The coach, whether it be Rick Carlisle, George Karl, or Fred Hoiberg, then gets upset that they were challenged, and sits the Brain on the pine.

My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn't have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn't change the plan because it didn't work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can't win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don't deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it's the leadership.
A post shared by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on
Is he that difficult to deal with that a coach will sit a major NBA talent on the bench? And even if he is, is it the best strategy to winning? I mean look at the Bulls last season: Rajon lost the starting job and logged multiple DNPs until he began to see baby minutes, playing a few times a night. Then his role continued to increase, Chicago made a run at that #8 seed, secured it, and played the Celtics in the first round of last year's playoffs. And before he hurt his thumb, Rondo tore us apart! We lost the first two games, at home, and the second game was a blow out loss where Rajon absolutely commanded the floor. He went for 11 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds with 5 steals that night. The Celtics couldn't get a shot off on offense, and I heard a rumor that it was because Rondo had studied our game plan so thoroughly, that he knew what plays we were running on every drive. That seems a bit unrealistic, but I believe it.

The guy is always the most clever player on the floor and I love it. If we didn't have basketball mastermind Brad Stevens on the sidelines, I'd demand that Danny Ainge sign Rajon Rondo back to the Cs and implement his as the team's new player/coach immediately. And when he eventually retires, he will most definitely find a gig court-side for some lucky fanbase. I hope that that fanbase is ours.

So let me be the first to say, I'm proud of you Rajon, and I'm glad that you're finally getting the respect that you deserve. Those young guys in Chicago were lucky to have you.

Was anybody else surprised with the Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard nominations? Carmelo has been trying to get out of New York all year. I don't understand how that translates into 'good teammate.'

Photo 1: CBS Boston
Photo 2: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

Odie Waukewan 8/23/2017 11:25:00 AM Edit
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