Rajon Rondo is an intelligent man. Stubborn, recalcitrant, obstinate, belligerently competitive -- yes. But intelligent.
So after he offers strong evidence to the contrary, we are left to fathom just why he would choose to put a leash on foolish and take it for a walk at the Garden last night.
He will get a call from NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson today, at which time he will learn the length of his latest vacation. For the third time in less than a year, the Celtics will not have Rondo because Rondo indulged his emotions.
After throwing a ball at referee Sean Wright in February and bumping into official Marc Davis in April, he said that he would learn from his transgressions.
"Yeah, but usually he goes after the refs," cracked Doc Rivers. "This time it was another guy, so that's better, I guess."
The reporters laughed. It's likely, however, that when the coach got back to his office, he failed to find the humor in the incident -- or Rondo's expected absence.
With 29.5 seconds left in the second quarter, Kevin Garnett drove to the basket and was fouled by Kris Humphries. It didn't seem like anything overly felonious, even when KG hit the deck and Humphries was hit with an immediate technical for a second hit to prevent a potential 3-point play.
But Rondo saw it differently. He got into Humphries' face. Of course, giving up at least eight inches in height, Rondo needed to use his hands to do that. During a short series of jabs, he sent the big man past the baseline and into the seating area under the hoop. It looked rather like Yukon Cornelius going at the Abominable Snow Monster.
Having dealt with divorce attorneys, Humphries didn't exactly appear frightened. But when more bodies showed up, the danger became clear. By the time the scene had cleared and Garnett had tossed aside a rushing Gerald Wallace, Rondo was ejected for fighting, Garnett and Wallace had technicals (it was Wallace's second) and Humphries had been hit with a second tech, presumably for trying to get Rondo to stop hitting him.
Though it's hard to tell exactly how Rondo deciphered what he saw of the initial play -- he left without addressing the media -- the circumstances aren't difficult to read. The Celtics were trailing the Nets by 16 and they were playing as if the margin should have been double that.
"I'm not going to get into anyone's head on that," Rivers said before doing so. "I thought it was a bad foul because Kevin could have gotten hurt. He was in the air. He took a bad fall. So Rondo saw that and probably reacted -- and overreacted, obviously. But I can't get into anyone's head.
"Listen, I think at that point we were getting our tails kicked and we were probably frustrated."
The point is that a player as good as Rajon Rondo needs to realize his value and that he must be above such stuff. And he must at least heed the lessons of his own past.
Rivers is rightfully disappointed in his very important point guard.
"Well, yeah," he said, "I don't think anybody should get thrown out of a game. We all have to keep our emotions. I mean, hell, we didn't come to play as a team. That was awful, basketball-wise."
Rivers then launched into an attack on his own team that landed harder than anything thrown at Humphries.
"If I'm Brooklyn and the league, you've got to think we're pretty soft with the way we're playing," he said. "We're a soft team right now. We have no toughness.
"That stuff's not toughness," Rivers said in regard to the grade school contretemps. "You know, all that stuff, that's not toughness."
It was, at best, foolishness. As cocky as he can be, it's as if Rondo somehow doesn't truly realize how good he is and what he means to his team. There can be no question that, with his actions, Rondo hurt the Celtics worse than he hurt Humphries. (And on a personal level, that streak of double-figure assist games? Gone with the sin.)
"Listen, I think Rondo's emotional," said Rivers. "But I don't think he's any worse or better ... you know, it was a play that happened. He regrets it, I'm sure, but what can you do about it?"
If you're Rajon Rondo, you can see the bigger picture and avoid such trouble. If you're Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics, you can pray it doesn't happen again in the spring.
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