BOSTON -- It's easy to forget that Rajon Rondo, who now plays like a genetic splicing of Magic Johnson and John Stockton, was once considered a pseudo uncoachable jackass.
In June of 2009 Celtics general manager Danny Ainge went on a Rondo rant during an interview with a Boston radio station. While simultaneously praising Rondo, Ainge criticized him as a non-team player who needed to grow up.
|Doc Rivers was a critic of Rajon Rondo, and was also part of his move toward stardom. (Getty Images)|
Then came the most damning quote of all from Ainge arriving in the fresh light of the Celtics' second-round loss to Orlando last year.
"As we saw in the Orlando series, they left him wide open," Ainge said. "His presence hurt us in winning right now because his man went and doubled onto Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] and made it difficult for us."
There was verifiable chatter, unbelievably, that the Celtics were attempting to trade Rondo and coach Doc Rivers reportedly called him "impossible to coach" and "stubborn."
What a difference a year makes. The Celtics wouldn't trade Rondo now for a king's ransom and the Magic have been burned by Rondo whether leaving him open for shots or not.
How Rondo transformed from a question mark to a reliable load-bearing component is unclear, but his change remains one of the great and sudden breakouts in recent NBA history.
Rondo's signature moment might've come during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals when he out-hustled an embarrassingly casual Jason Williams to a loose ball and then scored.
"It was probably one of the toughest plays defensively I've seen in my career," the 13-year veteran Allen said. "It's one thing to have the ball and make something miraculous happen but not having the ball and making something miraculous happen -- then score with it -- that was awesome."
Rondo going from possible castoff to blastoff can be credited mostly to him, but a chunk of the credit also goes to Rivers.
Rondo matured, ceased showing up tardy and grew as a player and person. Rivers, to his credit, noticed Rondo's efforts and rewarded him.
Rivers started to trust Rondo so much that he handed the entire team to him. The Celtics went from The Big Three to the Fantastic Four with Rondo as the general.
It's now officially the Rondo Celtics.
And that is the crazy world of sports. It was reported a year ago that the Celtics offered Rondo and Allen to the Detroit Pistons for Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, and Rodney Stuckey. If that trade had happened the Celtics would've been dead.
"It's always going to be critics," Rondo told the media this season. "That's part of the game. I won a ring, they still got something to say: 'You probably couldn't do all this without the Big Three.' It's always going to be somebody saying something negative towards me or towards my game, but it doesn't bother me at all."
The critics are gone. Long gone. So are the memories of Rondo as a problem point guard.
Replaced by memories of him as an elite one.