It was still less than a year ago that the specter of a seemingly imminent trade involving Rajon Rondo hovered above the basketball world. Would the Boston Celtics really part with the last remaining vestige of their most recent championship? What would teams be willing to give up to acquire a player of Rondo’s talents? And just how good would he make the squad that wins the bidding?
The speed with which Rondo fell from the league’s graces is indicated by just how ridiculous those questions seem in hindsight. Of course the Celtics felt comfortable dealing a player nearing the wrong side of 30 years old who hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL. That the Dallas Mavericks surrendered a first-round pick, let alone Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright, to acquire him is something close to disastrous. And any optimism that Rondo could take Rick Carlisle’s team from the championship periphery to its forefront was lost almost as soon as it was found.
You know the story by now. The three-time All-Star never fit with the Mavericks, constricting the team’s free-flowing offense and clashing with Carlisle to extents that rendered his stay in Dallas over before the season officially ended. A competitive free agent market never materialized for Rondo, and he subsequently signed a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings worth $10 million – a salary that vexes considering the nine-year veteran seemed to have no other offers on the table approaching that amount.
But players glean nothing positive from dawning on a recent past marked by so much darkness. Rondo stressed just how happy he was to be with the Kings shortly after his contract became official, and routinely updated his social media profiles this summer to document time spent with new teammates. Might Sacramento be the place for the ultra-talented, notoriously hard-headed point guard to revive his career?
Rondo sure seems to think so, recently explaining to Cowbell Kingdom’s Vince Miracle just how thrilled he is for the 2014-15 season to finally begin later this month.
“Man, I haven’t been this excited since the ’08 team in Boston,” Rondo said. “If we can buy into coach Karl’s system, I think we are going to shock a lot of people.”
Propelled by the offseason acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the 2007-08 Celtics, of course, won the franchise’s first championship in over two decades. Though Rondo had yet to emerge as a consistent impact player during his second season in the league and was often benched in favor of veteran Sam Cassell, he ended it on the highest of notes by notching 21 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and six steals in Boston’s title-clinching Game 6 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
It speaks volumes of Rondo’s confidence in the Kings that he hasn’t been so excited for a season since 2007-08. Though Garnett’s Celtics never won another championship, they were legitimate contenders until 2012-13 – and certainly favorites to repeat as title-winners before injuries left them depleted in 2008-09.
But Rondo’s relationship with Ray Allen deteriorated as his place in Boston’s hierarchy rose, and his accord with Doc Rivers was as complicated as it was beneficial. A simple change of scenery could be what accounts for his buoyancy. But there are many outsized personalities in Sacramento’s locker room; it would be easy for them to clash more quickly than those in the Celtics’ eventually did.
That Rondo is getting along with his teammates as training camp gets underway is certainly encouraging. However, every team drinks from a half-full glass in early October. Far more noteworthy than quotes and reports suggesting harmony, basically, would be ones suggesting anything but at this earliest of points in the season.
Still, the ugly crossroads of Rondo’s career makes any positivity whatsoever worth mentioning. And if his play on the court is lifted by his attitude off of it, perhaps Sacramento really will make good on that optimism by surprising the league to contend for a playoff berth.
[Via Cowbell Kingdom]