Rajon Rondo and his teammates have hugged it all out.
That’s apparently all that was needed to right the wrongs after Sunday night.
After Boston’s 87-80 win in Game 2 Tuesday in Atlanta, Rondo was waiting for his teammates. He thanked Paul Pierce for scoring 36 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He thanked Kevin Garnett for his double-double and for fighting through countless double-teams on offense.
And he thanked Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling for picking up the slack in a backcourt that was missing its two projected playoff starters of just two months ago.
But so many questions remain. Has Rondo learned his lesson? Will it happen again in a “heat of the battle” moment? Will opponents try even harder to get inside his head when things aren’t going his way? How much can he be trusted? Just how spectacular will he be this weekend against a weakened Hawks lineup?
Rondo’s first comments since the “incident” were classic, and offered some insight to those questions that surfaced once again after he chest-bumped Marc Davis on Sunday night with 41 seconds remaining in a Game 1 loss to the Hawks.
The comments were a contradiction in terms that perfectly sums up the complicated Celtics point guard.
There was appreciation.
“I ran down the tunnel and gave KG the first hug and told him, ‘Thank you, and I appreciate everything you guys did for me.’ A lot of them want it for themselves, but they told me, ‘We got this for you.’ Felt good and felt like I was a part of it. It changed the series.
“Funny, they told me the night the incident happened, they told me, ‘We’ll get this for you.’ I was hoping I wasn’t going to get suspended that game. It happened. They spoke of it two days before.”
Then, almost as if to remind everyone of his stubborn nature, there was defiance.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to say, ‘Thank you for getting this win.’ We’re trying to get as many wins as possible. They’ve won without me before. It’s not the first game I’ve missed. I’ve missed [games] with injuries and suspensions. It was a big win. It’s the playoffs. Every win counts.”
Did Rondo feel like his let his teammates down?
“Nah, do you feel like I let them down?” Rondo replied to a reporter’s reasonable inquiry.
Rondo summed it up by trying to assess where the whole situation going forward.
“Just try not to let the emotions get the best of me. But I’m an emotional player. I try to keep my composure and my emotions to myself and quiet. But it was a heat-of-the-battle moment. I wanted to win. I made a mistake. I’m not on trial.
“The end result is all that matters. Could been different. Could’ve been very difficult. Felt like we won the series already.”
No, Rondo, you were not on trial.
The verdict has long since been in. You are a supremely gifted point guard, one of the best in the NBA. You set a new record this year for assists in a month, formerly held by Bob Cousy, and then set it again two months later.
Rondo is on a streak of double-digit assists never before seen in Celtics history. He has reached double figures in the last 25 games he’s played, including the final 24 contests of the regular season.
His game on March 4 against the Knicks was one of the best in NBA history. He scored 18, dished 20 assists and grabbed 17 rebounds and played 48 minutes of a 115-111 overtime win.
That made up for his actions of Feb. 19 in Detroit, when he tossed a ball at an official in disgust and got tossed, along with receiving a two-game suspension from the league. The first question that came to mind Sunday during "the incident" was, "Didn't Rondo learn his lesson?" It's certainly the question that NBA discipline boss Stu Jackson must have asked himself. Rondo is lucky that these are the playoffs and the league didn't want to impose a harsher penalty to skew the result of a series.
But the Celtics have long since decided to live with the good and not-so-good of Rondo.
He was one of the keys to the Celtics’ 2008 NBA title run and a huge reason why they got back to the finals in 2010. He has entertained fans at the Garden with spectacular plays and was one of the key reasons the Celtics made a post-All Star break run to another division title. He averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists and nearly five rebounds a game. He is the most active point guard in the NBA.
But still, Danny Ainge would have dealt Rondo for the right price before the season -- and still might this summer.
Why? Because he’s the most valuable trading chip Ainge has to rebuild the Celtics now. And because Rondo is high maintenance.
But we’re here to look forward to this weekend. What story will Rondo write? Will it be a hero’s return to help the Celtics to a commanding 3-1 series lead, which everyone expects over the banged-up Hawks? Will he be out to prove a point that he can put the past in the past and leave it there?
Or will Rondo be tempted to prove a point with his defiance on the court? That’s the part of the fire that Doc Rivers doesn’t want to see.
Maybe Sunday and the resulting ejection and suspension for voicing his disgust with bad officiating was just the thing Rondo need to inspire him. He says he won’t try to do too much this weekend in his return.
“I don’t think I ever try to do too much because I’m a passer’s point guard,” Rondo said Thursday. “It’s not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy and at the end of the day, get the win.”
So many questions. But that's the beauty and fun of following Rajon Rondo. You never know what the answer is going to be.
Rondo is many things. What will he be this weekend?
We go to the Trags Bag for a question that seemed to touch a chord with many Celtics fans, good and bad:
Will this type of behavior stain Rondo’s legacy with the Celtics?
@RedsArmy_John Is it fair to be assessing a 26 year old's legacy right now? What would answers have been re: 27 y.o. Pierce in 2005 vs. now? You’re talking about a young competitive man who is still maturing. Everyone's history can change in an instant. Legacy discussions are best held post-retirement.
It’s like a book … They still had to finish writing Gone With The Wind before figuring out how good it was
@RicardoMoniz7 rondos legacy hangs in the balance? Come on the guys 26 year old, his legacy will be looked upon once he's finish: his carer
@Andreas24x7 quick question you think laker fans complain about kobes ego, or the attitude that drove shaq away? Superstars have egos. Look at KG pre-2008 and KG post-2008. It's like discussing the impact of a movie while the script is still being written
@Sportsgal1972 Legacy? Talk to me about that in 5 years. Way too soon to tell. #TragsBag #Rondo Reputation and legacy are two different critters.
@KimSherayko Players typically don't care what other people think of their legacy.... /facepalm ... wait 5 years after his career to discuss his legacy...Rondo is still young and immature, as was Pierce
@_TheChief My opinion about the guy is exactly the same as it was 2 days ago. Great player, limited in areas, has a penchant for losing it
@Andreas24x7 legacy vs reputation..the fanboys wont be effected but his attitude/ego needs to be taken down a peg clearly
@RicardoMoniz7 but like i said..attitude towards players is one thing..attitude towards the league is bad news..very Sheed like.
@IlanaRachelB Rondo has a reputation now, as do many of the league's brightest stars, but his legacy is yet TBD. His story is still unwritten.