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“The Education of Rajon Rondo” and the Worst Team Meeting

Adrian Wojnarowski has a must-read piece on the Celtics and Rajon Rondo that comes tantalizingly close to explaining the source of some of the tension between Rondo, the Big Three and the front office. 

But let’s start with the three bits of significant current news from Woj:

1) Rivers says glowing things about Rondo, and it appears whatever maturity problems existed last season are gone;

2) The team and Rajon are “nowhere near” an extension as the 10/31 deadline approaches;

3) Ainge indeed shopped Rondo around the league, but, Woj says, he intended to send Rondo a message, not to trade him.

The rest of the story centers around what sounds like the most awkward team meeting ever.

Rondo called the meeting in the back of an airplane after that dreadful blowout loss in Cleveland toward the end of the regular season. You can tell Woj reported his ass off and likely knows more about that meeting than his sources allowed him to print. All he gives are hints of what happened, but those hints suggest Rondo set up the meeting as a passive-aggressive attempt to coax the young guys on the team to complain about what Woj calls the “tough love” attitude of the veterans. 

It is unclear what happened at that meeting, but it was obviously a disaster. Here’s Woj: 

For some Celtics, there was a sense that Rondo had prodded the younger teammates to speak out on the tough-love tactics of the vets.

Rondo never vented, but one teammate who had challenged K.G. later confessed privately that he wished he had never spoken up, that he didn’t even believe the whiny words tumbling out of his mouth. Rondo insists he had the best of intentions, and yet there’s no mistaking the fact the meeting served to widen a gulf between him and his older teammates.

And then Rivers, whom Woj goes out of his way to say was not the source of his tip about the meeting:

“I hate player meetings,” [Rivers] said. “The right things are never said. I’ve always believed that either guys blow smoke up each other’s asses, or they go the completely opposite way and say (bleep) they can’t repair.

“Well, they had it and everyone got on the bus all pissed off at each other.”

And Rajon: 

Rondo had little enthusiasm to discuss the meeting, saying, “It’s hard to play when guys have things on their chest. I think it’s best to get it off there. But obviously Doc thinks otherwise.

“…A lot of guys said what they had to say, but I don’t know if it helped us or hurt us.”

So what the hell happened? On what grounds did this anonymous young player challenge Garnett? Did Garnett flip his lid? And who was the player? Perhaps Glen Davis—the victim of KG’s withering criticism earlier in the season? We don’t know (though I suspect Woj does) but it’s safe to say the team was far from united as it entered the post-season. The complete story would obviously tell us a lot more about Rondo and last year’s team. 

But the good news is that the meeting in question indeed happened last year. It will become a footnote in the development of Rondo and the 2009-10 Celtics. Rivers heaps praise on Rondo in the story, and the vibe around the team sounds completely different than it was in the back of the plane. 

But damn: Wouldn’t you love to have a recording of that meeting? 

  • Jason

    So much is still unknown. For instance, I agree with Rondo that if he felt something was lingering in the air, they should try to fix it. However, if it was just to whine about tough love, then no. The point is that Rondo was trying to be a leader, that the execution or result didn’t work, doesn’t mean you can post hoc give him crap about maturity or leadership. You can’t have it both ways. Doc does seem wise about how things rarely work out as planned, but this are his after-the-fact comments. It doesn’t seem like he advised Rondo not to do this and he did it anyway.

    And just so everyone’s clear. This chemistry/divide issue would not be a story at all if KG’s knee was sound last year. That’s what derailed the C’s season, not this BS.

    Everyone leave Rondo alone. He’s awesome in play, leadership and toughness and is still improving, particularly his weaknesses. I can’t fathom what anyone else could want out of this guy so badly they need to badmouth him on such a consistent basis. I’m so fed up with Rondo maturity stories, which mainly seem like writers parsing anecdotes as they feel fit. The guy is an elite PG and only 23. I’ll take two please.

  • Still enjoying #17

    I agree. Rondo is our future. Let the youngsta play basketball.

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    hea rajon rondo i am a number one big fan of yours and I go to school at fletcher elamentery and i live in beaumont texas and i am 11 years old my bithday is in november 5 2010…

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