It was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Nobody, not even myself, had high hopes for the Boston Celtics. Playoffs were a pipe dream. Even in a weak Eastern Conference, the Celtics wouldn’t stand a chance. Rajon Rondo was on his way out the door, even though I had always believed he was the foundation to a new legacy. Yes, it sounds bizarre. There are better point guards in the NBA. There are point guards with better attitudes in the NBA. Yet somehow, I never saw that, probably because I was too enraptured by Rondo’s style of play: make the flashiest passes possible, and shoot if he absolutely can’t pass. He was a one-of-a-kind point guard that never failed to excite every time he set foot on the court. Granted, he has an abysmal shooting percentage when attempting anything other than layups or short floaters. His defense is just as abysmal. It didn’t matter to me. He got results. He put up big numbers on occasion. But “on occasion” didn’t matter to the front office. Consistency matters to them.
The rebuilding season technically started back on June 28th, 2013, the day Rondo was first put on the trade block, and the day the fall of the Big Three concluded. The Boston Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, ending the trail of dominoes that began toppling when Ray Allen signed with the Miami Heat after the 2011-2012 season. Everyone assumed the Celtics were in rebuilding mode, something even I saw. But they had Rondo, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger; a trio who could easily be the foundation upon which the Celtics revamped their roster.
Suddenly it was December 2014, and there I was, still clinging onto Rondo, calling him a savior. At that point though, with the season heating up, I was delusional. The Celtics were 9-18. I was lying to myself. I knew there was no way the Celtics could return to the playoffs with their current lineup. Thus began the rebuilding season. For real this time. My idea of rebuilding was tank, get a high lottery pick, use their obscene amount of high draft picks acquired from various trades to make more deals.
GM Danny Ainge’s idea of rebuilding was vastly different. Send Rondo to Dallas for Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, and Jameer Nelson. Send Green to Memphis for Tayshaun Prince. Only Crowder remains on the Celtics roster today.
Naturally, I was livid. My favorite active point guard, my favorite active Celtic, and my ideal building block to restore glory to Beantown. To top that off, my second favorite player was also shipped off. The Celtics traded for players they immediately got rid of. I fell into a deep depression, and naturally, the Celtics fell deep into the cellar. They went 11-18 in the two-month span between the Rondo trade and the trade that brought life back into the hearts of the Celtics and myself.
Isaiah Thomas was a player I had heard about a few times, but I never really paid attention to him as a Phoenix Sun. That’s probably why my initial reaction to the February trade was one of confusion and anger. “Why would you get rid of an upper tier point guard just to replace him with a middle tier one?”
Yes, I’ve been eating those words on a daily basis. Thomas is the floor general the Celtics needed. In only 20 games, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game. And he’s coming off the bench. Rondo started and he put up 8.3. Although he only played 22 games, if he kept that horrid scoring display steady, he’d be setting a career low by the end of the season. While Thomas isn’t as flashy as Rondo, he’s flashy enough to keep me entertained. His court vision is on par with that of Rondo. The only advantage to Rondo was his assists. This season, he averaged 10.8. While Thomas has only 5.4 so far, he makes up for it with his scoring. The Celtics have lacked a strong scorer for years now, and it’s clear that Rondo could never be that person.
Now relieved of my Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with Rajon Rondo, my judgement is no longer clouded. Rondo was never an elite point guard. He was simply a mediocre point guard on a team that at one point was elite enough to make him look good.
The rebuilding season has taken a different direction, but I’m okay with it. The seventh seed in the playoffs is the Celtics to lose. They may not (read: definitely will not) advance far, but this resurgence may attract the attention of big name free agents or disgruntled players looking for a change of scenery.
Rajon Rondo is gone and I couldn’t be happier.
And to think it was supposed to be a rebuilding season.