Celtics

Rondo's maturity isn't the Celtics problem

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Rondo's maturity isn't the Celtics problem

Depending on the angle from which you watched last nights whatever-you-want-to-call-it between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, your opinion of what transpired will be drastically different.

For instance, many of the reporters in attendance who had a clear view of the action from their seats in the southeast corner and who were all (most likely) sober swear that they saw Rondo throw a punch. Multiple punches. Enough punches to earn a significant suspension and a public spanking from David Stern (or more hilariously, Adam Silver).

For those of us who watched on TV, there were no punches at all. Personally, Ive inspected the video at least 25-30 times over the last 12 hours and still cant see a punch or even a moment when Rondo could have thrown a punch. Maybe it was more of a jab? Either way, from the TV angle, the whole thing appeared to be nothing more than your typical overblown modern-day NBA altercation. The kind of thing that the mid-90s Knicks would frequent on the regular, and Bill Laimbeer would liken to a leisurely stroll in the park. (Granted, one that was entirely created and perpetuated by Rondo, and will definitely and justifiably draw some kind of suspension.)

Finally, if your only insight into the brawl was Kris Humphries postgame photo, the only assumption is that Rondos actually some sort of Wolverine-type X-Man, and you know what? That would explain a lot.

The bottom line is that people saw what they saw. Theyre going to believe what they believe. And as is the case every time Rondo throws himself into the heart of controversythe media monster, those beliefs will be screamed and re-iterated in circles from now until much further notice.

Hes a baby! Hes selfish! Hes not ready to lead!

Before you know it, youll hear arguments as to why Rondo is Bostons biggest problem. That theyll never win another title by hitching their wagon to a stubborn hot head. That he doesnt know what it means to BE A CELTIC!

And thats fine.

But all the yelling doesnt change the fact that Rajon Rondo's attitude is not the problem right now.

Rondos maturity is not the problem. Rondos temper is not the problem. Rondos petulance is not the problem. (Or not as big a problem as the number of people who continue to describe him as petulant, despite considerable evidence that its impossible to use the word petulant without sounding like a dick).

Is it unfortunate that his immaturity and temper continue to occasionally inspire incidents like last night? Of course. Its also wildly disappointing to be forced to admit that Rondo clearly still has some growing up to do, and isnt as ready to carry the emotional burden of an NBA franchise as we hoped coming into the season.

But in reality, thats not the end of the world.

These arent the mid-2000s Celtics. This isnt a still-immature Paul Pierce trying to lead a team, flanked by veterans like Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. Instead, from a pure leadership standpoint, Rondo has the best support system in the NBA. He has one of the best leaders of all time, in Kevin Garnett. He has a fully-mature Paul Pierce. He has Jason Terry, who in only two months has already, in his own way, taken over this team, despite the overwhelming presence of the two guys I just mentioned.

The truth is, in respect to this one and only season, Rondos maturity was a luxury. Sure, it might have been nice to see him become that guy, but he didnt need to become that guy. Not yet. The Celtics veteran foundation is still strong enough to carry a freakishly talentedemotionally immature point guard.

Then again, the veteran foundation is entirely useless unless Rondos on the court. If hes suspended for any significant amount of time and thats a possibility, depending on how much weight the league places on the incidents proximity to the fans theres no doubt that the Celtics will suffer. In that case, his immaturity will be costing Boston actual wins, and I guess you can understand why some people will use that to throw Rondo back into the ringer. Hes selfish! Hell never change! Hes letting down his team!

That last one always gets me.

Is he really?

In terms of wins and losses . . . OK, maybe. But in reality, as you listened to the locker room reaction after last nights game, did you get the sense that even one of Rondos teammates felt let down by what happened?

It is what it is, man, Garnett said of the fight and a potential Rondo suspension. Obviously we are worried, but it is what it is. We have to protect each other and we consider ourselves family around here. That's just the way it is.

That might sound ridiculous when you consider the circumstances of this particular incident, but thats just how they think in there. If anything, Rondos suspension will probably end up bringing this team closer together.

On the other hand, Doc certainly sounds disappointed. Im sure Dannys disappointed. Man, were all disappointed. This stuff wasnt supposed to happen anymore.

But you know what? Its not that bad.

After one, three, five or however many games, Rondo is going to rejoin the line-up and go on a tear. I understand the danger in making predictions about an unbelievably unpredictable character, but in this one way, Rondos as predictable as they come. Honestly, what do you think the odds are that he puts up a triple-double in his first game back? What about in his first two games?

And at that point, well forget about Kris Humphries. Well convince ourselves that Rondos learned his lesson and just pray that the motivation sticks around. Well move on.

So hes still a little immature? OK, thats fine. But I dont know how any one could have watched Rondo in the last two playoff series against Miami and not think that hes a player that you want on your side when its all on the line. Hes been that guy for years. (And hey, at least hes graduated from hitting refs to hitting players. Baby steps!)

So like I said before, Rondo and his takedown of Kris Humphries are not the Celtics problem.

The problem is everything that came before it.

The fact that, even with Rondo in the line-up, the Celtics just arent a good team right now. They consistently sleep walk through games against lesser-talented teams like Detroit and Washington. Save for last Friday, theyre consistently out-played and out-classed against the morejust-as-talented teams. And don't get me wrong, Rondo (especially on defense) has contributed to that. But the Celtics also have no rebounding. More pressing, they have no edge. No attitude. Teams arent afraid to play them anymore. Not at home, and not even in the Garden. Like Doc said, the rest of the league thinks theyre soft. So soft that the only potential punishment for landing a hard foul on Kevin Garnett is a two-handed shove from a 6-1 point guard. (At this point, I imagine Kenyon Martin on the phone with his agent: Really? Nothing from Boston yet?)

I know that Danny loves the freedom of that open roster spot, but its also pretty clear that this team needs something. Something larger. Something stronger. Something meaner. For instance, if Reggie Evans has an identical twin, he would be great. But really, isn't it time to make a move?

Once they address that issue, they can start figuring out how to officially get Jeff Green on track. Next, Courtney Lee (who at this point must be Greens biggest fan). They can get to work on improving a defense that ranks 23rd in the NBA in efficiency.

And if theres any time leftover, I guess they can spend a few minute worrying about Rajon Rondos temper, maturity and leadership. But even then, I'm not sure it will be worth it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.