Bounce back player of the year is a projection that could go to any number of players, mainly because of the almost unprecedented amount of injuries we saw this past season. Both Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant would be good candidates, as would the previously mentioned Paul George, but I’m going to go into far left field and take Rajon Rondo.
Rondo’s odometer has slowly climbed over the past few years and now, suddenly, finds himself at 29 years old and considered by some to no longer be a top-flight point guard in the NBA. In some ways, it’s understandable. Rondo has simply not been the same player since he tore his left ACL in January 2013. Typically, when a player spends two-plus years attempting to regain form after suffering a debilitating injury, he seldom regains his full form.
One could make the case that Amar’e Stoudemire and Derrick Rose are examples of those that defied this. As for Rondo, though, I think his issues have had more to do with his unhappiness than anything.
Two years later, we can look back at Rondo’s injury as the final straw that ultimately led to Danny Ainge deciding to blow things up in Boston and begin anew. Six months after Rondo’s injury, Ainge traded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets just weeks after Doc Rivers had move on to the Los Angeles Clippers. Overnight, around him, the world had changed.
Rondo would eventually be the lone holdover from the Celtics 2008 championship team and with his impending free agency and Ainge contemplating whether to trade the young superstar, it was easy to understand him not being fully happy in Boston and unwilling to commit to the franchise long term.
Many thought the trade to Dallas would rejuvenate Rondo, but he seemed to have trouble finding chemistry with Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. Rondo was asked to play off the ball for large stretches—something he didn’t have to do much of in Boston. He eventually fell out with Rick Carlisle and his tenure in Dallas seems all but over as we approach July 1.
After an uneventful end in Boston and a disastrous few months in Dallas, Rondo’s value has never been lower. It will be quite interesting to see what kind of attention he attracts on the free agency market, but if there is one thing that Pau Gasol showed us this past season, it is that a player who happily finds himself in a new situation is certainly capable of bouncing back. Gasol’s health may have deteriorated as the season progressed, but his rebirth as an All-Star is all the evidence you need.
Rondo will bounce back, regardless as to where he signs this summer. There is nowhere to go but up, and at just 29 years old, I am in the minority of those that think he still has a lot of tread on his tires.
– Moke Hamilton