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Figuring Out Rondo’s DNP Vs. Spain

It was a good day for USA Basketball across the pond, controlling their tuneup against Spain for much of the contest, before holding off a late charge and escaping with a 86-85 win in hostile territory. Kevin Durant led the way with a fantastic line of 25 points and 10 boards, to go with two crucial blocks on Spain’s final possession of the game.

While the win left the Americans happy, Celtics fans were undoubtedly left a little perplexed watching the friendly due to the absence of Rajon Rondo. The C’s point guard has started in all previous contests for Team USA this summer, but was relegated to a cheerleader for the full four quarters of this one.

Unsurprisingly, it left many C’s fans wondering about Rondo’s status after a subpar game against Lithuania yesterday. Was it simply rest? Was Rondo hurt? Benched? Luckily, answers began to arise following the victory.Viewers of the fantastic affair also likely noticed that Rondo wasn’t the only Team USA player to earn a day off during the contest, as Danny Granger and Kevin Love also stuck to the bench. With Love leaving the game Saturday injured, and cuts looming Coach K explained his thought process after the game:

Those are two veterans and young guys haven’t had a chance to start or whatever, so before we select our 12 we needed to give everyone a look.

We were trying to learn about our younger players so we started a different lineup. Before we talk about the outside, Lamar Odom should be our starting center. He’s finally into shape I think to play at this level. Curry has been out so we wanted to give him a chance and we already know what Rondo and Granger can do, and Love was out.

The doctor wanted to keep him out because of hitting his head and because it’s back-to-back, so that was a precaution. That was our plan tonight, just to take a better look at our team.

Fair enough Coach. Chris Sheridan had more on the decision from the locker room afterwards, including a curveball Coach K failed to bench.  Was Rondo sick?

The victory came with a little added intrigue, too, with Rose claiming afterward that Rondo was suffering from some sort of sinus infection — a statement that was rebutted by team director Colangelo.

As well as starting Rose over Rondo, Krzyzewski also went with Odom at center in place of Tyson Chandler.

“Coach told the team this morning that he was going to try some other players, change the lineup,” Colangelo told ESPN.com. “We’ve been off to some bad starts in our three games, and so he went with a different lineup, and he said some guys might not play today. And that’s how it played out. I don’t think anything is significant. I don’t know what we’ll do in the game against Greece, but we’re still trying to determine who we are and how we’re going to play, so that was just for today, what he chose to do.”

They say coaches don’t want to show their hand too much in so-called “friendly” games before the real thing, but Krzyzewski was playing with a small chip stack and needed to double up to get his team out of its confidence crisis.

Hard to argue with any of that speculation from Sheridan. USA looked dismal for much of their matchup Saturday so this was a nice bounceback W against one of the toughest teams in the world.

For the record, Russell Westbrook certainly made the most out of Rondo’s absence today, likely earning his way on the squad with a strong 10 point energy boost off the bench.

This team still needs more shooting so it’s tough to imagine saying goodbye to Stephon Curry at this point, but given his ankle injury and failure to impress thus far, he may be the odd man out. Coach K and company will have a tough decision to make, but still have another week plus to figure it out.

Ultimately, the biggest question coming out of this game for C’s fans is likely whether Derrick Rose played himself ahead of Rondo into the starting lineup for this tournament. I know it’s just an exhibition game, but Rose played well today (13 points) against a superior opponent, providing crucial scores in the game’s closing minutes, including the game winning free throws.

Team USA is incredible defensively, but it will need consistent scoring in order to bring home the Gold from Turkey. You can argue all you want about whether Rondo or Rose is the better guard right now, but there’s no doubt who is the more reliable asset scoring the ball and that man is Derrick Rose.

Given that fact, it’s hard to see Coach K not giving Rose the nod once this tourney starts, I know I would as much as it pains me to say it. What say you Celtics fans? Bias aside, who would you rather start for this team; Rondo or Rose?

  • Hillcrestwildcat

    Could start them situationally. Rondo might’ve been good to put on Ricky Rubio early to set a defensive tone, while Rose as a closer (he can make free throws) would have been a solid rotation.

  • strips

    tough one…i’d have to give this one to rose though purely because of the scoring…

    although that situational thing hillcrestwildcat said could also work…

    it would’ve been rondo hands down if only he had a reliable jumpshot…

  • J-Red

    I agree with Hillcrest. Rondo’s not gonna score alot of points in international play, especially against the zone but he is the best facilitator and perimeter defender on the team. I like him starting not because I think he’s better, but simply to limit his weaknesses (shooting). The better question to ask is who would be better coming off the bench? And the answer is definately Rose! Rose has a much better chance scoring with a second unit then rondo would. I think he wouldve been beast playing defense on Rubio too! Rubio was acting like he was trying to prove that he’s better and Rondo wouldve stripped him at least twice with his BS iso’s on Curry…

  • NYC

    It’s too bad, he didn’t play this game. Rondo would of scored a lot of points and assist and looked spectacular in this game, cause it was very free wheeling, fast paced and not very physical like Lithuania was or Greece will be.

    Also, the US had not played in 5 games when they played Lithuania to boot. This would of been a good game for him.

    Don’t sleep!

  • niikkkiiii

    like Rajon Rondo is my faviote player but i can see coach K cutting Rondo instead of westbrook and curry cause he’s not a knockdown shooter.. really i want him to rest his legs, shoot 1,000 free throws per day and practice his jump shot……. really rondo is the best defender on the team………. i have to say Rose to start for the GroupB thing… Rajon Rondo is a beast in the playoffs so when they finish the groupB thing and get to the eleamation games rajon should start cause i bet you guys see Rondo in 2009 and 2010 playoffs…rondo was a beast..

  • Jason

    I would buy the idea that Rondo was kept out to give the “bubble” guys a more extended look if not for his horrible play against Lithuania that saw him benched at the beginning of the second half, along with the fact that the other guys who struggled, Granger and Chandler, were also DNP’d or yanked from the starting lineup.

    If say Rondo and Durant were kept out, I would buy the spiel about Rondo’s selection being assured but that’s of course not what happened. His competition, Westbrook, has really stepped up and played well the last two games, mostly by sticking jumpers. Curry’s been injured but he’s too good of a shooter to cut from a team lacking in that skill. I think the last roster spot may come down to Rondo, Gordon or Granger.

    I wish Rondo would take the open jumper more. There’s been plenty of them available but it’s almost like he thinks he shouldn’t be shooting with so much talent around him. That doesn’t however stop him from at least taking a few jumpers when Ray, Pierce and Garnett surround him. I don’t understand his complete reluctance. By turning down good available shots, he’s forced some things and turned the ball over. His best chance of making the team would be to take the plunge and let some jumpers fly. When is he ever going to develop the confidence or ability in his jumper to where guys won’t play 10 feet off him, daring him to shoot?

  • Kevin

    Rose seemed a bit careless with the rock though. He did get it stolen by Rubio quite a bit yesterday. In the short time I watched the game he got it stolen twice by Rubio and he turned it over 4 times. That is 6 turnovers for him in only the second half. I think Rondo is a much better ball handler and I think he would’ve stuck on Rubio a lot better than Rose did. There is ONLY one advantage to Rose and that is his ability to score.

    That is what this team needs though is some scoring so that is the knock on Rondo. After following Rondo in the playoffs for 2010 I would start him because he can score but not as good as Rose which he proved in the playoffs last year averaging what 18pts a game in the playoffs. THe obvious reasons to go with Rondo is he guards the ball better and is a better defender vs one dimensional scoring Rose.

  • NHBluesMan

    my gut would say to have Rondo play quarters 1 and 3 and Rose play 2 and 4, but really it is all situational.

    If you’re fighting back from being down afew points, put in Rose, he’s a better offensive player, but if you’re holding onto a lead and want to clamp down on the other team, put in Rondo, who is a much better defensive player.

  • Pat

    Rondo fits better into what team USA is trying to do. Defense pressure, pushing the ball, and rebounding. You guys say they lack scoring but with a lineup of Rondo, Billups, Iguodala, Durant, Odom there are plenty of options on the court. At the end of the game Rondo needs to come out just because he is a poor free throw shooter. But at the start of the game Rondo fits perfectly into team USA’s scheme.

  • CORY

    lets just ask would rondo have hit those 2 clutch free throws to put them up at the end?

  • Ricky flamingo

    Rubio looked like he’s ready to make the jump.

    Durant’s legend is growing.

    Part of me wants Rondo on the team. He’s wearing Bird’s #7 and Celts haven’t had a representative in awhile. No matter how you look at it, its a lot of point guards. Steve smith made a remark that Rose and Durant played well together so I could see Rondo in a Tony Allen role (eesh)

  • 15GREEN15

    JR smith is on the trading block ! froget about rudy . trade for j.r ! he can drop 15 points off tha bench . we will def. win a championship if we get him . and when ray retires he can take over sg .

  • Darren

    If only Rondo had decided to stay home this summer. He could have come back next season with a better jump shot and passable free throw.

    BTW, the idea of picking up JR is very troublesome. We already have Nate coming off the bench, we don’t need another unpredictable shooter to sop up minutes. If we are looking to find a replacement for Allen, we should put a bit of faith in Avery Bradley. Younger, and capable of more than JR if he develops correctly. I just hope he can shake off that horrible season he had at Texas.

  • Coolin

    Lets face it Rondo is not a top 5 pg. Playing on Team USA you need to pass the ball and that is something Rondo has a hard time doing. He loves to dribble and hold onto the ball too long. He also can’t shoot to save his life. What was it 28% from free throw line in the NBA Finals, give me a break!

  • Coolin

    I would love to have JR Smith on this team. The guy can score in bunches unlike anyone else off our bench except for Nate.

  • J-Red

    @Coolin – Lmfao! Do you even watch basketball? 4th in the league in assists per game, but he has a hard time passing the ball… Genius!!!

  • I love Green

    Coolin is a known Rondo hater.

  • Rangatiratanga

    I always thought the defensive guy, gets the nod over the offensive guy anyway, to start games.So i’d start Rondo and finish with Rose……..because, as Cory pointed out,Rondo would’ve lost that game if it were him at the free throw line.
    IF Rondo had a reliable jumper/shoot fts it would be a no brainer.

  • Joe

    Rondo starts, Rose finishes.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    they just didn’t want to show all their cards. rondo will be a horse for this team.

    btw: how bad did rudy suck in that game? he was the worst player on the floor. keep the pick danny….in von wafer we trust.

  • WestCoastCeltic

    @ Coolin – You don’t know what you are talking about, do you?

  • Rondo will start because Coach K wants the better playmaker and better defender…Not the best scorer. The benching was to light a fire under Rondo like when he benched Bobby Hurley during scrimages in Duker early in his career. Rondo will bounce back wednesday.

  • SMatt

    Rondo statistically would have missed those free throws. But cannot say he definitely would have missed them or not. Gotta play the game.

    But in terms of comparing the two, I wish I could have watched the games or at least seen a box score. How did Rose do with defense at the end of the game? Would Rondo’s defense have translated into 2 fewer points for Spain? because there’s your two missed free throws.

    Rondo’s impact is not in points scored or even assists often, but in tenacity on defense, hustle plays, and good court vision (floor general).

    Not sure how Rose did in those roles, because I haven’t been able to watch the games. But, that’s just something to weigh in on as nobody has mentioned any of those yet.

  • Sophomore

    Be interesting to see what Rondo would bring. The Team USA offense was, for the most part, hideous. Very little movement, and a lot of one-on-one or one-on-two at the end of a stagnant, pointless possession. We got enough fast-break points and difficult makes to win, and that’s about the best thing you can say.

    How would Rondo operate in this format, where there isn’t much of a team game on O, and there isn’t much space because the other side is packing the lane? Hard to say.

    You know who would love the FIBA game? Perkins! Based on what I’ve seen, he wouldn’t get called on a single moving screen. That, and they’re letting the bigs use their hands to shove defenders – it looks like a football block.

  • I love Green

    Juan Carlos Navarro looked great in that game. I’d take that Spaniard over Rudy any day.

  • J-Red

    @I love Green – Hell yeah! Navarro was beast! I was too impressed with Rubio though. The “amazing passes” that the commentators were screaming about were weak. That attempted no-look alley oop was gay. He was trying to prove something out there. I knew that immediately when he tried to iso curry with that standing in place crossover repeatedly like he was about to break him. I remember thinking “even if you do break Curry, he’s a rookie… What does that prove?” But he ended up using a pick and dishing it off. Later on, Curry made me wake up my neighbors when he crossed the hell outta him! That was soooo great! Rubio jumped on him all super aggressive like “Watch me! I can play great D on an NBA player!” He was almost being cocky. Then Curry said “here, hold this for me. I’ll be right back!” And crossed the piss outta him and finished with a floater. I absolutely LOVED that play! I wonder if Rubio went back into the locker room and cried… “Im not ready for the NBA!” lol

  • Rondo isn’t a shooter, but he is the general! He runs the show. Rondo is the best on ball defender…fast and gets to the cup. Rose is the better athelete and stronger. Roses game fits fiba better.