ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics directs his team against the Atlanta Hawks in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2012 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks won 83-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Rajon Rondo's actions (chest bumping a referee in Game 1) were wrong, and it resulted in a one-game suspension for the Boston Celtics' point guard. But did Rondo's actions wind up helping the Celtics?
In the aftermath of the Celtics' game one loss to the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round playoff series, the consensus seemed to be that Rajon Rondo was not only a horrible human being, but had potentially caused a series-altering shift in the outcome of the series.
The shouting and anger against Rondo's crimes against humanity was as strong as I've heard it for any Boston athlete on the radio/TV airwaves and in print. You'd think Rondo was Manny Ramirez the morning after he failed to run hard on a groundout by the tenor and tone of the anger being levied his way. Rondo was being universally pilloried for his behavior, with the crux of the criticism being that he left his team at a horrible disadvantage in the series, especially for Game 2.
Let's be clear here - Rondo's actions were wrong. He lost control of his emotions and put his team in a horrible position, both in that game and the next. But did his actions put his team in peril?
As with most hot sports radio debates, all the shouting and anger and debate turned out to be much ado about nothing, and in fact, Rondo's actions, may well have shifted the tide of the series into the Celtics favor.
Glenn Ordway was among the few who sort of saw this coming and kept a fairly level head about the situation. While callers to his program were eviscerating Rondo, and Ordway's competition was using the situation to kill not only the Celtics, but Celtics fans as well -- Michael Felger was busy comparing Celtics fans to Montreal Canadiens fans (a favorite tactic of his) -- Ordway, while being a bit "scared" of the prospect of Avery Bradley playing the point, acknowledged that the stage was being set for a monster game two from Paul Pierce.
That, of course, is exactly what happened in Game 2, as Paul Pierce took over, putting in 36 points and 14 rebounds. Would Pierce have submitted that type of epic performance had Rondo been on the court with him? We'll never know of course, but it seems safe to say that Pierce stepped up his game in Rondo's absence, and that was a big factor in the win.
Talk now is that Rondo desperately wants to atone for his mistakes and will come up big in game three, and perhaps the rest of the series. His seeming remorse over his actions (Coach Doc Rivers told Dennis and Callahan on Thursday morning that Rondo waited for his teammates after the game and personally thanked each one and shook their hand for picking him up) actually bodes well for the Celtics future in this series.
This whole episode can serve as a reminder that the reactionary, visceral mindset is not always the one that actually ends up with the correct prediction of the outcome of a scenario.
While it is easy (and perhaps cathartic) to rant and rave and predict the worst possible outcome when a situation like this occurs, it is perhaps more enjoyable and rewarding to coolly analyze and project what is actually likely to happen next ... and save yourself a whole lot of aggravation.
Rondo's actions in game one were not smart or correct by any interpretation. There is no excuse for losing his cool in a crucial moment of the game, regardless of the circumstances or performance of the officials. Still, what Rondo did may have inadvertently woken up the Celtics and put them on the right path for the rest of the series.
You can certainly say that Rondo's actions had a "series-altering" impact. But did anyone consider it might be for the good?