EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 13, 2012

Elite, or is attitude holding Rondo back?

On Pro Basketball
Christopher Smith

BOSTON — Impressing Derrick Rose can't be easy.

The 23-year-old Chicago Bulls point guard is the reigning league MVP, won the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year and has averaged 21.0 points per games in 263 career games.

One player who has wowed Rose though is Rajon Rondo — even before the feisty Celtics point guard posted a triple-double yesterday.

"Rondo is definitely fun to play against," Rose said before Chicago's game against Boston at TD Garden. "He challenges you in a lot of ways. You definitely have to play defense. He's a guy who can affect the game without scoring. How can you defend that? It's pretty hard."

While Rose sat out with back spasms, Rondo had arguably his best performance this year, pouring in a game-high 32 points, recording a game-high 15 assists and collecting 10 rebounds, the second-most boards behind Kevin Garnett.

All three numbers were season highs for Rondo as his effort helped the C's hold off the Bulls 95-91.

"He's one of the elite point guards in the NBA," Rose said.

Is he? Or is his questionable attitude holding him back from being great?

Rondo's attitude certainly has come into question.

There was the story in the Boston Herald about him throwing a bottle and shattering a video screen after a coach pointed out one of his errors and coach Doc Rivers shouted at a defensive Rondo at a video session during the Miami Heat playoff series last season.

Others have said that if he had a better attitude, he would have improved his free throwing shooting by now. Instead, he can't shoot over 60 percent.

Then, there was last night.

The point guard didn't just decline to speak with reporters, but he made everyone wait more than a half hour as he went from the trainer's room to the shower room to his locker back to the shower room and then into the trainer's room.

He could have announced to the more than 20 reporters waiting for him that he wasn't going to speak when he first saw them.

He instead let everyone wait, wait and wait some more until a Celtics media relations representative announced Rondo would not be talking.

That's fine that he didn't talk. He doesn't have to. But why make everyone wait?

One reporter said that he heard Rondo quietly say, "I'm not talking" as he passed by the herd of journalists on his way to the shower, but that reporter thought he was joking.

Why wouldn't someone talk after that kind of performance?

Well, Rondo hasn't had the easiest season. He was the subject of trade rumors before the season started and during preseason. The latest rumor, which came out this past week, had him going to the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol. After that news broke, Rondo had one of his worst games as a pro in a loss to the lowly Raptors last Friday.

Let's give Rondo a little bit of a break here.

He probably isn't angry at the media and the media shouldn't hold a grudge because he kind of snubbed them.

Maybe the point guard instead is angry at Danny Ainge for all the trade talk.

Rondo has made it clear he enjoys being a Celtic. Wouldn't it upset any player if he had to hear his name over and over again being linked to other teams?

To top it all off, it has to irk Rondo that he didn't make the All-Star team.

After the game, some reporters were discussing how Rondo doesn't get it. And how Rose does.

Rose talked with reporters for a half hour before yesterday's game and even fielded questions afterward despite not playing.

But, again, let's give Rondo a break and recognize that while he might be really upset right now — and that is not doing anything to improve his reputation — he let his play do the talking last night.

Heck, he even converted 4-of-4 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

As Paul Pierce said: "When he's assertive, aggressive ... the way he played tonight, we are a tough team to stop. ... He's one of those guys when he plays with a lot of energy he's so tough. ... When he pushes off the break he's tough to stop in transition. He just did it all tonight. He was great to watch."

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