I understand the criticism, but at the same time I think it's unfair. When Rondo gives up an easy lay-in for a teammate to dunk, his teammates respond with trust and appreciation for #9's talents (Though I guess Ray was the exception). Rondo does not strike me as a guy who constantly worries about his individual stats and pouts about usage rate (Sounds like Ray again!). I don't buy into the "what if he got injured" argument either. For one, his minute count was manageable and he wasn't even trying to attack the basket in the end, opting instead to dribble around the perimeter and get an assist to a jump-shooter. If he can't handle an extra 2 minutes against the Detroit Pistons then an injury is inevitable (I felt the same way when Tom Thibodeau took criticism for Derrick Rose's ACL injury when a playoff game against Philadelphia seemed in hand). Luckily for Boston, Rondo is a warrior and has never had a season-ending injury despite his heavy minute load.
The only time I ever have an issue with Rondo's unselfishness is when he passes up very make-able layups for open jump-shots. This is a grey area because sometimes it's the right play, but other times when a defender doesn't even contest, Rondo has already chosen not too shot even though he has a wide open look from close range. Rondo's aggressiveness has improved, but he still has a ways to go. Boston is a jump-shooting team and needs the added dimension of Rondo getting inside and drawing contact, I mean he hasn't shot a single free-throw in 4 games. I'm not saying I want him to force ill-advised shots, but just to remember how good he is in the paint and focus on pressuring the defense.
The Celtics hope Rondo is a serious MVP candidate this year, and a storyline like chasing Magic's all time double-digit assist streak of 46 is the type of narrative that will bolster his campaign. At the same time, we all know that nothing helps your chances like winning, and Rondo is certainly not content with a 6 and 5 record. Look for him to continue his improved consistency as the season continues. Ultimately, in a league where so many players complain about playing time, salary, and touches, we have to ask ourselves, how many guys are more committed to winning than Rondo?
Here's a tweet from Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe:
RE: Rondo: He's been stat-padding for years. Some is fine (i.e. deferring on a 2-on-0 fast-break), some unhealthy (passing up lay-ins).
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 19, 2012
NBC Pro Basketball Talk's Brett Pollakoff tweeted this last night:
Kobe checking back in, presumably to pull a Rondo and get his numbers in a game that's already over.
— Brett Pollakoff (@BrettEP) November 19, 2012
Players have been criticized heavily for valuing individual accomplishments over the team’s success in the past, especially when doing silly things to try to get a final rebound or assist to record a triple-double. This doesn’t feel any different, and in fact might be worse considering it couldn’t have happened without the coach’s cooperation.
Rajon Rondo pushing the limits of good taste and the definition of an assist in these pages. Like when he and his Celtics, already down 21 points against a terrible Detroit Pistons team on Sunday, kept Rondo in for his 38th minute during his fourth game in five nights so that he could earn that final dime.
Editor's note: Mark Vandeusen contributed to this piece.