Yesterday I saw this:
And I thought to myself that we were going to be in for a treat. I imagined Rondo as a man obsessed. The Rondo that I envision is never satisfied with a mediocre effort. He's publicly soft spoken and fairly stoic, but still fiercely competitive. So when I read that, I imagined that the idea that people commonly believe Derrick Rose is better than him, and commonly believe that the Bulls are the team to beat in the East, not the Celtics, was eating him up inside. I imagined him in the gym so zeroed in on the task at hand that he hadn't even realized hours had gone by and that all of his teammates had long since departed.
Clearly I allowed my imagination to run away with me, because his performance last night was not that of a man possessed. No, that performance belonged to Derrick Rose. Not only was it Rose who so flashily demonstrated everything that Rondo's game lacks: a consistent jump shot and the ability to finish continuously at the rim, but it was Rose who beat Rondo at his own game. There is no debate that Rose is better than Rondo in some areas- specifically the aforementioned areas of scoring. Similarly, there is no debate that Rondo is better than Rose in other areas, namely defensively and in passing. Rondo was inexplicably aloof last night, and was scorched by Rose for 30 points and 8 assists, while he was stifled offensively (3-10 shooting) and was unable to get his teammates involved (6 assists).
My theory is that he's a tortured genius. While a talent like Derrick Rose is easily comprehended as something special, it's harder to classify Rondo. He's not a prolific scorer, and he's not the physically imposing/freakishly athletic presence the way Lebron is, but he's still the engine that makes this team run. Last night for whatever reason (and I won't pretend to know what it is. Nagging injuries? Mental barriers? Exhaustion?), he got in his own way and had a clunker of a game. He knows that better than anyone else. He was visibly upset after the loss and had a post-game meeting with Doc Rivers to discuss top secret things.
But you know what? No matter what, my faith in Rondo is imperturbable, as is evidenced by the fact that I fully believe he will step on the floor tonight and victimize John Wall. Maybe there is no magic switch to be flipped, where the Celtics will stop messing around and start playing like they care, but I fully believe that Rondo is capable of kicking it up a gear. Rondo has been saying he's the best point guard for years, and I know many Celtics fans are with me when I say that he's beyond proved that point. I can not, and I will not, believe that he will not soon return to consistent dominance.