Monday, May 03, 2010

Learning from History: Is Pierce to Rondo like Bird to Lewis?

I still remember the 1992 NBA Playoffs. I remember it like it happened yesterday. It was the year the late Reggie Lewis stepped up and looked like the next great Celtic. It was the final year Larry Bird played in the NBA. It ended in the second round against perennial bridesmaid Cleveland. It was supposed to be the torch passing from Bird to Lewis, from the 80's to the 90's, and it would be remembered as such if Lewis hadn't died a little over a year later. The thing I remember from that series was how good Reggie Lewis was, and how mad I was that Lewis never got the ball in the game 7 loss in Cleveland. I felt at the time Bird was trying to get that one last signature game, and with miss after miss, it was evident that his moment had passed. Later on, as I actually gained basketball knowledge, I re-watched the game and realized that Cleveland's game plan was to let Bird do whatever he wanted, because...

1. He couldn't move.
2. He wasn't hitting his shots.

The only way the Celtics were winning that game was if Reggie Lewis took the ball and took over, and that wasn't going to happen with Bird on the court. It wasn't his team yet, and Chris Ford certainly wasn't going to be the one to give it to him.

Fast forward to Saturday night. Rajon Rondo is lighting it up. No one on Cleveland can guard him. This morning, all I heard was that Rondo needs to be more assertive, more selfish, blah, blah, blah. Here's the problem kiddos, and this is something I have been railing on all season. The reason the Celtics are awful in the second half is because the ball shifts from the hands of Rajon Rondo to Paul Pierce more often than not. Some of this is because of Rondo's shooting woes, most I believe is due to a comfort factor with Doc of putting the ball in Pierce's hands. As a caller this morning astutely pointed out, the Celtics had mismatches all over the floor Saturday night, yet in the second half, when the game was coming right down to it, they gave the ball to Pierce against Lebron, basically one of only two match-ups Cleveland could claim they had an advantage. (When Pierce was on the court, Boston was outscored by 14 points -- the worst plus/minus of any player in the game) I didn't find it to be a case of Rondo pulling off, I found it to be a case of Piercebeing the second half QB for years now, and NOW you want to let Rondo do it? This team is Rajon Rondo's team. Not Pierce's. Not KG's. The point guard is the one who runs the show, and this show only gets good reviews when Rondo is the featured player. Doc can call Rondo out in the media all he would like ("We were winning because we were attacking. [The Cavaliers] won the game because they attacked in the second half"), but his history of taking the ball out of  Rondo's hands in the second half of games this entire year is coming back to bite him now. If it's his team, let him have the ball and make decisions he sees fit. Oh, and lock Rasheed Wallace in a closet somewhere. The fact is, the time for torch-passing is once again upon us, and unlike 1992, there are a few games left to get it right. Here's your chance to let Rondo lead the team, Doc. Are you going to let him do it, or fall back into comfortable habits?

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