From the penthouse to the outhouse in just one weekend? We here at CelticsHub worried about the C’s point guard status with the team after a poor showing against Lithuania, and a benching against Spain. Now it appears our worst fears are true, as Rondo himself believes he isn’t even guaranteed to make the final cut after losing his starting job to Derrick Rose. Chris Sheridan has the must-read story from ESPN.com:
“I think I’m on the bubble,” Rondo said Tuesday. “Just looking at the obvious — I got a DNP last game. That pretty much speaks for itself.”
After losing his job as the starting point guard to Derrick Rose last weekend in Madrid, Rondo’s stock has fallen to the point where it now appears he is third on the point guard depth chart behind Rose and Russell Westbrook.
But Rondo is not the lone player on the bubble, a fact Danny Granger acknowledged.
“I just think it really depends on what the coaches want from the team,” Granger said at the OAKA Arena after the American team practiced in the very same building where the 2004 Olympic team received their bronze medals. “If we take more of a defensive approach, I could be [on the bubble]. If we take more of an offensive approach, then it’s different. It just depends on what they want to do.”
So who else on Team USA potential chopping block?
One name that has been speculated on is Stephen Curry. Team USA has always needed offense and shooting though, two things Curry can bring. Thus, despite some injury problems, Coach K indicated Stephen is all but a lock to make the squad:
Stephen, he provides a different thing, because if they are going under [screens] and they keep going under on him, then he has a 3. So it forces another team to change the way they defend our team. So it’s things like that, and how we feel strategy-wise what’ll be best for the team.”
Reading in-between the lines here, Curry gives Team USA more offensive flexibility than someone like Rondo might. So what does Coach K say about Rondo’s status? Well, his comments weren’t exactly encouraging for the C’s All-Star.
“It’s not so much what Rajon has to show, it’s what our team needs. We’ve found a good lineup, and the international game is so different from the NBA game, you can ask any of these guys,” Krzyzewski said. “Part of it is to make sure that we try not to have two non-shooters out on the court, and there’s the physicality, too.”
Yikes. A shot at Rondo’s shooting and shying away from contact in the lane in the same sentence? Ouch.
As far as Rondo’s competition right now to make the roster, logically another point guard is the one to go, thanks to the redundancy of the position. Danny Granger didn’t play against Spain as well, but this team is in need of for more size (of any kind) and scoring, then another athletic point guard at this point.
Kevin Love, as noted in the article, looks to be a sure thing too if he’s healthy. Team needs size, he provides insurance. The guard shooters (Eric Gordon and Curry) will be there in Turkey out of necessity more than anything. So that leaves the final cut down to Rondo and Westbrook.
Westbrook clearly has played his way in front of Rondo after his terrific performance off the bench against Spain. Rondo likely still has a chance to make a strong final stand against Greece, in hopes of making Coach K and company reconsider their decision. Hopefully Team USA gives him that opportunity Wednesday night.
It’s funny, most C’s fans in the back of their mind figured something like this was up on Sunday. Lots of reporters ate up the postgame comments after the Spain game from Coach K, that Rondo and Granger were simply getting “rest,” while the team’s looked at the bubble candidates, or that the team benching Rondo was simply strategy, to save a look for the real tournament.
I never bought that, and I’ll tell you why. This team isn’t good enough to save it’s best guns for the real tournament. They struggled against an average Lithuania team and showed clearly their achilles heel was scoring.
The troops looked awful with Rondo leading the helm in that one, the team’s first game against a credible European opponent, so Coach K decided to shake things up. This team clearly didn’t have great offensive chemistry yet, so new combinations had to be tried.
Derrick Rose was inserted into the starting five, along with Lamar Odom to give the team a scoring boost, with more shooters on the floor and it paid off. Team USA looked a hundred times better against Spain, and also in the 2nd half against Lithuania when Russell Westbrook started.
Rondo wasn’t a part of those lineups, and while Team USA’s struggles weren’t all his fault Saturday, he is the common denominator in the transition between an improved offensive performance during the weekend’s games.
You have to give credit to Westbrook though, he has run with his opportunity since the Lithuania game, looking terrific as a energy boost off the bench against Spain. Both Westbrook and Rondo aren’t shooters obviously, so with Westbrook showing more promise in the other aspects of his game, Rondo looks to be the odd man out.
Of course, this could all still change against Greece if Rondo plays well, and Westbrook has a stinker. Things obviously shifted quickly over the weekend, and they could again. However, there’s no guarantee Rondo will get a chance to show his stuff against Greece, so the C’s fans who have wanted Rajon to get more rest this offseason may get their wish come Thursday.
Personally, I feel like Rajon needs these reps to help improve his own game. International play exposes a lot of flaws in your game, especially if you are a good that can’t shoot consistently from the outside.
Still, there are other components Rondo can bring to the table. The starting job may be long gone, but he must bring the energy off the bench Wednesday night if he wants to stick around.
Get out in transition, drive to the hoop confidently and absorb the contact, hit a jumper or two, when Rondo’s on he can do all of these things. He should be motivated against Greece if he wants to hang around and luckily is still saying all the right things in the face of adversity as Sheridan’s article notes:
“It’s what’s best for the country,” said Rondo, who said his DNP-CD (did not play — coach’s decision) Sunday was his first since his rookie NBA season. “It’s part of it. We knew coming in it was still tryouts until we make the team that goes to Turkey.”
They’ve seen you at your worst Rajon, now show them what you do best.