Five years ago a day did not pass without Tony Parker’s name surfacing in trade rumors. Many believed that Parker was the Spurs’ Achilles heel and even though they won a title with him at the helm, Parker was not a good fit for the team. He allegedly dribbled too much, clashed with coach Greg Popovich too often, and his lack of an outside shot made it easy for teams to collapse in on Tim Duncan. Five years later, Parker is still with the Spurs and his play is a large reason why the franchise hasn’t slid into the lottery. Parker even has an outside chance of stealing one or two MVP votes from LeBron James and Kevin Durant this year. By contrast if you look at the legion of point guards whom Parker should have been traded for you’ll see it’s a motley bunch. On the low end, there’s Knicks reserve Baron Davis, whose mix of size and outside shooting would have bolstered the Spurs. And on the high end, there’s Steve Nash, the two time league MVP who’s still playing at an advanced age. Who knows how the Spurs would have fared with Davis or Nash–but we do know they’ve fared with Parker, and for all extents and purposes they have done well with him.
The evolution of Parker’s career is in many ways analogous to the one Rajon Rondo’s is currently experiencing. Parker went from being his team’s weak link to lynchpin with far less fanfare and praise than what’s been heaped on his more revered teammates Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Just as Parker will never be thought of in the same regard as Duncan, Ginobili, and maybe not even Avery Johnson for that matter by Spurs fans. Celtics fans and the front office are likely to always be dismissive of Rondo, forever turning the conversation to his poor outside shot and his purported sullen demeanor.
If the Celtics continue focusing in more on Rondo’s weaknesses than his strengths they are bound to make the same mistake that Dallas made when it traded Nash rather than heeding the lesson that the Spurs learned in dealing and building around Parker. The Celtics need no look further than in their own conference to see how lacking a top flight point guard can lead to a team floundering. Had Atlanta had a point guard of Rondo’s caliber in the last three years the Hawks would’ve likely made at least one Eastern Conference finals. And before the arrival of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks offense looked as if it was being run by a rec league pickup.
Rondo is young, has the most reasonable contract of any comparable player in the league, and unlike Stephon Curry, Chris Paul or any other players who have been mentioned in trade rumors with Rondo over the past two years, he’s the only one to have led his team to an NBA title.
The problem with the Celtics over the past three years have not resulted from Rondo’s actions, but rather the doings of GM Danny Ainge who’s burdened the team with the likes of Marquis Daniels and Jermaine O’Neal. Since teams can not trade GMs–otherwise the Celtics would have inquired about an Ainge for Sam Presti swap ages ago–GMs instead fuel chatter about their players.
If the Celtics are keen on rebuilding without suffering a lost decade, then they must make it clear that Rondo’s here to stay. Otherwise, they will be quickly reminded that a sullen, disinterested fan base is far worst to deal with than a point guard whose only crime is that he’s a little quiet.