Rajon Rondo’s Attitude Suddenly Under Assault, Though Timing Is Strange

Rajon RondoKevin Love appears to be headed to Cleveland, where he would join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in a new “Big Three.” Carmelo Anthony is going back to New York. Marcus Smart, the Boston Celtics’ top draft pick, plays the same position as their team captain.

Nothing is going the Celtics’ or Rajon Rondo’s way this summer. Yet there has not been the slightest negative peep out of the All-Star point guard.

Rondo’s professionalism throughout Danny Ainge’s rebuilding endeavor is something we’ve covered before. Still, Rondo is suddenly, randomly under fire for a personality and an attitude which, quite frankly, he has not displayed in quite some time.

The complaints about Rondo certainly might have merit. But the timing is weird.

For no real reason other than there not being anything else in sports to talk about Thursday, a respected national reporter and an influential local TV personality saw fit to take shots at Rondo’s reputation. Mostly, it was all things we have heard before: Rondo holds the ball too long on offense, he hunts for assists rather than moving the ball, he is not always cooperative with the media.

Allegedly, helping teammates get easy shots does not endear Rondo to everybody. Teammates supposedly preferred playing with undrafted rookie Phil Pressey last season. Stars around the NBA won’t come to Boston because they don’t want to play with him. Doc Rivers despised coaching him.

First, a disclaimer: Despite growing up in the Boston area, I was not a Celtics fan, for reasons that would take too long to get into and that you likely don’t care about, anyway. So while I disagree with the characterization that nothing worthwhile extends from fan blogs like Red’s Army — of course they are biased; that’s the point of them — I certainly wouldn’t count myself as one of their kin. I don’t take the shots at Rondo as personally as someone who watches every game in a green No. 9 jersey.

I’ve had my moments of exasperation with Rondo, just like anybody else who spends time in the locker room and at the practice facility. He is far from unassailable. It’s just … why now?

Some of the knocks are true, to a degree. We have heard the same, in isolated murmurs, for years, though this falls far short of the widespread contempt in which Rondo is purportedly held throughout the league. Last season’s birthday fiasco was ill-advised and harmed Rondo’s reputation just as he was beginning to convince people he had earned the “captain” label.

Yet aside from that misstep, Rondo has been a mostly perfect soldier through an otherwise frustrating time in his career. He is in the midst of his prime, heading into a contract year and coming off a season that was dreadful for his team from a win-loss standpoint. Many a player in a similar situation has pouted his way out of town. (We mentioned a few of them at the top of this story.) Rondo, by contrast, keeps saying how much he loves Boston. Actions speak louder than words, of course, which is why it’s also noteworthy that nobody in Rondo’s camp is leaking word of his aggravation or discomfort with his current team — again, something many a player before has done.

At some point, Rondo will likely be traded. As Ainge’s win-now ploys evaporate, it makes too much sense to deal Rondo and too little sense to keep him. Some team will take him — perhaps the one whose best player recently called Rondo the best point guard in the league — and will give up a hefty package for him. Then he will be someone else’s problem, though just how much of a problem is in the eye of the beholder.