When Rajon Rondo was selected with the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, very few expected him to emerge as the star of the class. Even less expected Rondo to become the floor general for one of the most decorated franchises in NBA history.
The question is, can Rondo actually thrive in a leadership role for the Boston Celtics? Or is he meant to take on a secondary role?
Rondo may not be the most popular player in the league, but he's certainly one of the most productive. Contrary to popular belief, he's also one of the most dedicated, with a work ethic that deserves the admiration of millions.
Even if that respect only comes from a local community.
Rondo's more polarizing side was on full display during an interview with reporters after his first practice back from a two-game suspension. An interview in which Rondo stated he did not learn a thing from his suspension.
This comes per the Sulia page of Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
"I wanted to be out there with my teammates but obviously a 2-game suspension, like I said I was glued in front of the TV," said Rondo, who told reporters he went to Mexico during the break. "Hopefully I don't feel too winded tomorrow. I think I've been off for about a week now. We'll see tomorrow."
When asked if he learned any lessons during his third suspension in nine months, he said: "No."
"It was difficult," he said, "I love being around the guys. I love coming into practice and being around them on the team plane, but I had to miss that for a couple of days but other than that everything is back to normal."
Whether you have an issue with his not learning a lesson or taking a trip to Mexico, there are more than enough reasons to be upset with Rondo's antics. There is also reason to enjoy the chip on his shoulder.
Regardless of which stance you take, there is an undeniable truth about Rondo. He is the greatest facilitator of his young generation, which was on full display during his streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists.
A streak which ranks second all-time. A streak which only ended because Rondo was ejected during the second quarter of a game with the Brooklyn Nets.
One can only imagine that Rondo would continue to pursue Magic Johnson's record of 46 consecutive games with at least 10 dimes.
Although that numbers offers insight as to how Rondo contributes, it is not entirely indicative of why he's such a great leader. For that, allow the following pieces of information to enter your mind.
Let's start with the intangibles.
Entering the 2012-13 NBA season, the No. 1 complaint surrounding Rajon Rondo's game was his inconsistent jump shooting. In response to those concerns, Rondo has come out firing by connecting on 49 percent of his mid-range jump shots through 14 games.
He's also shooting a career-best 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. So how's that for a work ethic?
Rondo's effort on the floor goes well beyond statistics and percentages. The resounding image of his dedication to the game came during Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
A game in which Rondo dislocated his elbow, marched back on to the floor and led the charge to a 97-81 victory. If that's not an example of leadership, what is?
Rondo may not be the most personable player to the media or referees, but he is the type to command respect in the locker room. Everyone from Kevin Garnett to Paul Pierce has expressed a belief in Rondo's ability to fill said role.
Which brings us to our next point.
Trust of the Veterans
When an individual is referred to as the leader of an NBA franchise, we often forget about one important fact. It's not about statistical performance, but rather the trust of the players around them.
Considering Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are just two of the players to recognize Rondo as the top dog, it's safe to say he has the trust of his teammates.
After Game 4 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Rondo claimed that the Celtics "still go through the Big Three" (via ESPN). Keep in mind, Rondo finished Game 4 with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
The third player in NBA history to achieve such a feat, joining 7'1" Wilt Chamberlain and 6'5" Oscar Robertson. Keep in mind, Rondo is just a 6'1" point guard.
Not like his 6'8" opponent that evening, LeBron James.
This marked the beginning of the Rondo era in Boston. The do-it-all point guard became the leader of the Celtics.
According to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston, Paul Pierce offers insight and a vote of confidence.
"Two years ago I think they wanted him to be one thing," Paul Pierce said. "But he was still learning. They were saying, 'It's Rondo's team,' but he wasn't to the point where he was that constant presence.
"They put him in a role he wasn't ready for yet."
"He took so many huge strides last year, he had to be the leader," Pierce said. "KG and I aren't going to be here much longer, so it's time for him to have a real voice, especially with Ray [Allen] gone.''
Garnett chimed in with a simple, "It was Rajon's show."
During Rondo's two-game suspension, young veteran Jeff Green confirmed that notion. According to a report via USA Today, Green had this to say about Rondo's absence.
"[Rajon Rondo's] our leader, so it's tough when he's not here," Green said. "So everybody as a group has to pull together as a team and try and take his place."
Better With Rondo Than Without
To counter this point, many will cite the fact that the Boston Celtics are 18-11 when Rondo is not in the lineup since 2010. To that, I will cite a series of numbers which express his true value.
When Rondo is on the floor, the Celtics are averaging 25.5 assists, 13.3 turnovers and 98.6 points per 48 minutes. When the former Kentucky Wildcat is on the bench, however, those numbers drop to 19.5 assists, 16.5 turnovers and 92.4 points per 48.
In other words, the Celtics are better with Rondo than without him. Much better.
As for his stone-faced, angry and intense demeanor during and after games, why are we complaining? That sounds quite similar to a previous Celtics legend.
Rondo may not be your first choice to star in a commercial, but he will lead your team to offensive brilliance and victories. Such has been on full display with the Boston Celtics for over half a decade.
Rondo is coming off of a season in which he led the league in assists and triple-doubles. As previously noted, this comes as Rondo stands undersized for a point guard at 6'1" and 186 pounds.
Rondo fights with every muscle and bone in his body. He's the greatest facilitator of his time, a versatile defender, a dominant force on the glass and one of the most dynamic postseason performers in NBA history.
If that doesn't make a great leader, what will?