The same ESPN writer who said NBA players don’t want to play with Rajon Rondo, ESPN Insider’s Jeff Goodman, spoke with SB Nation’s Celticsblog.com today to discuss his thoughts on Rondo, particularly in relation to Rondo’s peers. Goodman was pointedly asked why he publicly derides Rondo’s leadership ability and espouses the theory some NBA players don’t want him as a teammate.
Before we get into what Goodman told Celticsblog.com, first we have to mention Dime’s interactions with Rondo both on camera and off. After talking with one of Dime’s co-founders, he said that the idea Rondo has interpersonal problems with those around him could not be further from the truth — at least based off what he’s seen. Rondo’s comported himself with class whether the cameras were rolling or not, and that’s why the recent allegations from Goodman ring hollow for some — particularly Dime’s founder.
Of particular note is Goodman’s lack of named sources, or players who will go on the record with their thoughts about playing with Rondo. This might lead some to feel Goodman’s line of thinking is unprofessional when discussing a player he covers: bad-mouthing a guy without a single verifiable source to back up his claims.
Like the world they inhabit, the NBA is increasingly more interconnected, something Goodman alludes to in his chat with SB Nation. To label a player as a sort of malignant tumor without the respect of his teammates, could actually lead to that misinformed opinion rippling out to affect other player’s reactions to him.
Enough preamble, here’s the first part of Goodman’s Q&A with Celticsblog writer Jeff Clark:
CelticsBlog: “What is your overall opinion of Rajon Rondo? If you were running or coaching a team, would you want him on it? (and why?)”
Jeff Goodman: “He is exceptionally talented. Let’s start there – and maybe that’s what frustrates me more than anyone else about him. He is so quick, has the potential (and we saw it early in his career) to be one of the elite defensive players in the world, and also the ability to make his teammates better. I have such high expectations. But he frustrates me for a variety of reasons – he doesn’t show much leadership ability, more often than not makes the flashy pass rather than the simple one, has not improved his perimeter shot – and doesn’t appear to care about being a great teammate (as some of his former coaches will attest to off the record). I would love to have him on my team – if I have established veterans who can make plays on the offensive end. For a team such as the one in 2008, he was the ideal point guard. KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were not only veterans who led the team, but were also offensive weapons that took the pressure off Rondo. Would I want Rondo? Sure, but it also depends on the team that surrounds him. I don’t feel that he’s the ideal fit with the current group – largely because he’s forced to be the leader and also needs to make shots (two of his weaknesses).”
Here’s Jeff Clark’s follow-up, and you’ll notice Goodman doesn’t cite specific players, but he does allude to the time Rondo tried out for USA Basketball without ever getting a formal invite.
CelticsBlog: You’ve indicated in the past that you hear things from people around the league that have shaped your opinion of him. Are there any specific stories or are these more general impressions and opinions?
Jeff Goodman: I talk to a good amount of players in the NBA – and have known a ton of them since they were in high school, when I first began covering them. They tell me things off the record. Many of them trust me because I have watched them in AAU, in college and now in the NBA. Many are not enamored with Rondo. Sure, there are some who clearly like him (i.e. Kendrick Perkins) and others who say positive things about him (K.G. Pierce, etc.). I’m not counting DeMarcus Cousins, because it’s actually worse for Rondo that Sacramento’s big man came out and said he thinks he’s the best point guard in the league. Cousins is a complete knucklehead and just about everyone in the league knows it. Many of the opinions I have heard come from players throughout the league who either do not have much of a relationship with Rondo – or have heard negative things about him through other players. The problem is word gets around, and his reputation isn’t exactly stellar with his peers. The landscape of the league has changed – as was evident when LeBron partnered up with D-Wade and Chris Bosh. These guys talk to one another, hang out together and text constantly. Rondo does not have that relationship with many players in the league – and that hurts him. One instance I will give you is that when he tried out for the Olympic team a few years back, he didn’t exactly make a positive impression and the staff basically sent him home. There are, of course, differing accounts of what happened – but my sources told me that the coaches wanted him gone.
While it might seem like we don’t believe Goodman, it’s more because of the paucity of evidence — minus a couple anecdotes we all know about already — to back up this league-wide permeating belief about Rondo we don’t see or hear about anywhere else.
Yes, Rondo can be complicated for some, particularly reporters on deadline, but is his attitude so troublesome players actively want to avoid playing with him?
His former teammate, Kevin Garnett, as cantankerous an NBA player as exists, spoke glowingly about Rondo after heading down to Brooklyn last summer.
Even Kobe Bryant has a measure of respect for Rondo after both players referred to each other as “assholes” in January this year.
Then again, Rondo did seem to dig a wedge between himself and his teammates earlier this year — even though he only returned to form intermittently this past season. He chided some of his teammates saying, “For the most part, guys are playing for contracts this year.”
Nevertheless, despite various reports saying Celtics GM Danny Ainge was about to unload his all-star point guard, the 28-year-old remains with the same team who drafted him in the summer of 2006.
Whether that stays the same with one year left on Rondo’s deal, remains to be seen, but we’d like an actual source on the record to explain this purported player antipathy towards Rondo. Before that happens, we’ll hold off on doling out any judgment about one of the most unique players in the Association.
Is Goodman right about Rondo?
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