Now before you start calling me a homer and saying I’m crazy and blah, blah, blah… sit back, read, and then criticize me if you want. I’m here to tell you that at this current time in the current NBA with their current teams and skill sets, Rajon Rondo is more valuable to the Celtics than Kobe Bryant is to the Lakers. This comes a day after Bryant dropped 41 points against Rondo’s Celtics – at home – when Rondo only put up 10.
Kobe will always be remembered as one of the greats (as much as that pains me to say) regardless of what happens from here on out. He will always have the honor of being remembered as a one-named player, much like Jordan, Magic, and Shaq, and will also be remembered as one of the premier scorers the league has ever seen. With all of that being said, he has merely become a pawn in the triangle. Can he still burn you? Of course he can. Can he win a game by himself? Not anymore.
Can Rajon Rondo win a game by himself? No, but that is exactly the point. The Celtics seem to spin their wheels in the mud when Rondo sits out, whether it be for a minute or for an entire game. There is no continuity, no team work, no movement, no flow. He is the quarterback of the Celtics offense and the cornerback for the defense. Defenses sag off of him and he still burns them, without scoring. He leads the NBA in assists per game with 12.6. He is averaging 10.4 points per game. That means he is responsible for creating shots and successful scoring opportunities that account for 35.6 points per game, and that’s only if his assists only result in 2-pointers. Kobe is averaging 25.5 ppg and 4.8 assists a night. That accounts for 35.1 points per game, again, minimum.
Does it help that Rondo is surrounded with four hall of fame players? Of course it does, but when has Kobe not been surrounded with at least two other All Stars and not been successful? In the foggy years, after Shaq departed and before Pau Gasol saved the day, Kobe was simply not that dominant. He was putting up big numbers offensively but his team was sub par. There were dark days in LA where it was thought that one day it might read “Bryant” on the back of a Clippers jersey. Those days are long over but the days of Bryant being a product of the triangle are just beginning, and yesterday was example B.
Example A was Game 7. At home it was not Bryant who put the Lakers on his back in order to will them to victory. It was… Ron Artest? Pau Gasol? Lamar Odom? All very solid, above average, all star potential players. I would take any of those players as a matter of fact, but if you told me that they would put their team on their backs in order to overcome a double-digit deficit with six minutes left I would have lost a lot of money. Bryant doesn’t need to be that player anymore, which isn’t the worst. It allows him to maintain his body and become a more balanced scorer throughout the entirety of the season. He fits perfectly in the triangle with Odom, Gasol, and Artest rotating in and out. The Lakers have a quality situation all around, and Kobe is just as much a scoring threat as always, but outside of timing and a jumper he isn’t anything special, as he once was.
41 points is a plateau many players never see throughout their entire career. That’s over half of his career high 81 he dropped in Toronto. 41 points, though, stood alone against the Celtics in the box score. He had three rebounds, two turnovers, a shot blocked, and five personal fouls. He was six of seven from the charity stripe and three of five from long range. For the 38 minutes he logged on the court, he was a -9, meaning the Celtics outscored the Lakers by nine points while Bryant was on the floor. Every other category remains blank. Zero assists. Zero. Something that has become the most glaring non-stat of Bryant’s illustrious career.
Rondo scored 10 points, as mentioned before. 0-0 from the free throw and three point line combined. Five rebounds, three turnovers, one personal foul. He finished the game as a +11 (Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins both finished with +13 in seven and 14 less minutes, respectively). He also finished with 16 assists. 16 shots would not have happened without the assistance of Rajon Rondo. 32 points (minimum) would not have been accounted for without the ingenuity of Rajon Rondo. What he lacks in shooting, he makes up for in passing and defense. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in length. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for with speed.
The Celtics are not as fluid of a team without Rajon Rondo. The Lakers aren’t as scary looking without Kobe Bryant. Both are needed in order for their teams to be successful. Both demand attention when they have the basketball in their hands. Both were traded on draft day for less than appealing packages (sorry Charlotte and Phoenix). Most importantly, both play the game the way it should be played and should see each other again this June for another epic finals battle. While the Celtics may need Rondo a little bit more than the Lakers need Kobe, it is evident that neither of these teams would be as dominant as they are (winning the last three NBA championships between the two of them) without either.
I guess, all I’m saying is…I like my guy better. Even without the headband.