Rajon Rondo is “playing hurt,” says Kevin Garnett.
“No, he’s fine – nothing’s wrong,” says Doc Rivers. So who is telling the truth about Boston Celtics point guard? Should we believe a teammate or the coach? It’s a tough call, but maybe Kevin’s let slip a little too much detail while Doc is making a belated attempt at damage limitation.
If Rondo is injured, the last thing Celtics coach Rivers wants opponents to know is that very fact. Rivers was yesterday asked by a journalist if Garnett was wrong to state that the 25-year-old Kentuckian was unfit and provided a terse: “Yeah, he is.”
It is pretty apparent that the coach is unimpressed by Garnett giving away team secrets – and rightly so, especially when Rondo is probably playing his worst basketball as a pro right now. Surely Garnett should learn to zip it and allow his teammate to find form again without adding extra pressure, as well as aggravating his boss. Or should he? Maybe he’s looking ahead to the playoffs.
Certainly, there is evidence that Rondo is “hurt” after briefly leaving the game in New Jersey on Monday before returning with his right ankle taped up.
Lest we forget, Rondo started the season injured. As well as the plantar fasciitis (inflamed connective tissue) problem in his feet, he missed out on three games last November because of a strain in his left hamstring. More telling, however, might be his seven-game absence from December 15, when he sprained his left ankle in a the basketball game against the New York Knicks. A symptom of long-term plantar fasciitis can be continued ankle pain. That is surely a worry for Rivers.
However, if a player walks on court, it is automatically assumed he is fit enough to play. But if fitness is really behind Rondo’s abysmal run, why is Rivers still giving him game time? There are too many contradictions here as he was actually on court longer than any other Celtics player in Wednesday’s win against Indiana at just short of 30 minutes.
Check out his stats in scoring a measly four points during the last three games. Rondo couldn’t even register a point when shooting 0 for 2 in the 92-80 success against the Pacers – and failed to record a rebound for the first time this season – while it was 1 for 10 in the 88-79 loss at the Nets on Monday and went 1 for 6 in the 87-56 victory over Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday evening.
The two-time NBA All Star has also provided just 20 assists during those games and has failed to hit double figures in helpers since recording 16 during a victory at home to the Golden State Warriors on March 4.
Garnett made his comments following the TD Garden victory against the Pacers, adding that Rondo is “giving us everything he has, and he’s grinding”. He might well be trying his hardest, but now is surely the right time to give Rondo a rest as Boston leads the charge to the playoffs. OK, charge might not be accurate right now as the Celtics struggle at 2-3 from the past five games.
It is also possible that Garnett has gone public on the matter to force his coach’s hand as he believes “there’s nights where he [Rondo] is playing countless minutes for us, and he’s not playing washed-up guys – he’s playing [Darren] Collison and [Deron Williams] and all these guys, and they’re coming at him”.
That sounds like a plea to give a friend a break. But Doc fired back that Rondo “hasn’t been playing well…you go through that”, before adding that his star will “work himself out of it”. Again, that is hard to argue with.
But, with just 16 regular-season games left – starting tonight at the Houston Rockets – wouldn’t it be to the team’s benefit to have a fit, happy and productive Rondo come the playoffs. That is not a question. It’s a statement of fact.