Last Thursday, two volatile debates flared in my Twitter feed. In one, people were arguing whether this dress was blue and black, or white and gold.
The other was between those who wanted the Lakers to pursue Rajon Rondo, and those who didn't, in light of Ken Berger's report that the Lakers were at the top of Rondo's list of prospective destinations in free agency. In the case of both debates, the issue at hand was inherently one of differing perceptions. With the dress, some people's eyes say one thing, and others see the colors differently.
The same can be said of the way perceptions of Rondo vastly differ.
On one hand you have fans who would seemingly give up one of their arms (or at least a kidney) to sign the former Celtic. On the other -- presuming you still have an extra you did not give away to sign a free agent -- you have the anti-Rondo crowd that wouldn't want the Lakers to sign him even if they personally got a commission on his contract. Maybe splitting the sides in this way is too hyperbolic, but this was essentially the way the Rondo discussion often comes across.
Those who advocate for signing Rondo are largely remembering his otherworldly performance in the playoffs from 2010-2012 for Boston. Most impressive of these runs was 2012, when Rondo dragged the last functioning remnants of the Big Three era Celtics to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, losing despite Rondo's 22 point, 14 assist, and 10 rebound performance. For those playoffs, Rondo's averages were just about flriting with a triple-double (17.3 points on 46.8% shooting, 11.9 assists, and 6.7 rebounds).
Rajon's gaudy numbers dropped a bit headed into the following 2012-13 regular season, but his career regular season averages are less impressive in general than his postseason ones, so that was nothing new. In fact, his rising for big games is lauded by those who hope Mitch Kupchak and company pursue him this year. Rondo was still was mostly on pace for a career year, but he tore his ACL that January and missed the remainder of the season.
Rondo's performance since that ACL tear is pointed to by those whose worst case scenario for the coming off-season involves Rondo signing a max contract to become a Laker. In Rondo's two partial seasons in Boston post ACL tear, he did not look like the same player offensively or defensively. Surrounded by a non-competitive roster, the notoriously difficult to deal with guard showed little interest in playing defense, even admitting as much once being traded to the Mavericks this season.
Dallas is where the real worries about signing Rondo to a max or even long term deal begin to crop up. While the good vibes flowed early, recent times have not been enjoyable for the organization or its fans, culminating in Rondo and Dallas Head Coach Rick Carlisle having an on-court and then post game confrontations, leading to the point guard being suspended one game.
Those type of intangibles look bad, but the numbers look worse. Just take a look at this chart Drew put together for his weekly SB Nation Power Rankings:
Those are not pretty numbers, other than the defensive improvement. But those who see Rondo as worth signing might argue these away as a chemistry or fit issue, and not even be entirely wrong.
As a point guard who cannot space the floor (career 26.3 percent three-point shooter. Yikes) and thrives off of setting others up for baskets, Rondo needs to play on a team built around those talents. The question is whether he is a player of the caliber worth building around in today's NBA.
Is he a winner, a guy who steps his game up when the lights are brightest, a star worthy of being recruited by Kobe Bryant over bagels to come and take his place as the next great Lakers guard? Or is Rondo simply more name than game, a straw for a misguided front office to grasp at in a desperate and transparent attempt to bring star power into the fold for the franchise's post Kobe future?
Like the dress that set the internet ablaze a week ago, we will get a definitive answer, but count me along with those that don't want the Lakers to bring it to us.