Rajon Rondo AWOL to Celebrate Birthday in LA – What Will Brad Stevens Do?

by Kent Sterling

Brad Stevens exits the floor after his first ever ejection Saturday in Sacramento.

Brad Stevens exits the floor after his first ever ejection Saturday in Sacramento.

As the basketball coach at quaint Butler University on historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, there was no doubt who was in charge.  Dealing with 20-year-olds who owed their scholarships to coach Brad Stevens, getting players to show up on time was easy.

Getting a player being paid $45K short of $12 million is a little more difficult it would seem, as Boston Celtics team captain Rajon Rondo decided not to accompany the team from Los Angeles to Sacramento for a game that fell on his 28th birthday, an event he decided to celebrate in L.A.

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Rondo would not have played in the game against the Kings regardless of whether he was there because as he continues to gain strength in his surgically reconstructed knee, he sits on the back end of back-to-backs.

Rondo missed Stevens being ejected from a game for the first time in his career.  Was there frustration because of Rondo’s AWOL status that led to Stevens trying to win over the rest of Celtics with an uncharacteristic choice of words that caused a referee to invite Stevens to relax in the locker room for the rest of the game?  Likely.

This episode with Rondo puts Stevens, who is now the coach of the Celtics, in a position that will test his ability to lead.  Rondo is finally closer to full health, and any discipline might result in an abdication of effort.  A lack of discipline might result in the rest of the team concluding that Stevens’ boyish appearance equates to a weakness.

It was inevitable that Stevens would be tested by Rondo, and how Stevens responds will go a long way toward determining the amount of control he has over the roster moving forward.

The NBA is different from college basketball in many ways, and chief among them is that the players on an NBA roster are far more wealthy and secure in their positions than are the coaches.  That means the players can tell a coach to get bent, and there isn’t a whole lot coaches can do about it.  The best NBA coaches are partners in the success of the team, not a dominant figure that drives it.

Anyone who knows Stevens at all is certain that he has prepared for this moment as he does for all others, and knows to make team president Danny Ainge a big part of the solution.  It’s always smart to consult the boss before bringing a hammer down on a very expensive and talented point guard.

It’s likely that Ainge, Stevens, and Rondo have already discussed this indiscretion, and have moved forward.

We won’t find out what punishment – if any – was meted out because that’s grandstanding, and Stevens will not grandstand.  He will be quiet, determined, and transparent.  And if Rondo or one of his teammates pulls something like that again, they will see Stevens make very certain that it doesn’t become a habit.

The first one is on the player.  Subsequent behavioral issues are on the coach.  I can’t imagine Stevens will let it get to that point.

3 thoughts on “Rajon Rondo AWOL to Celebrate Birthday in LA – What Will Brad Stevens Do?

  1. Philboyd Studge

    Even the Boston tabloids couldn’t muster much enthusiasm about this blip of an indiscretion, considering that Rondo wouldn’t have played, was clearly better off rehabbing in place in LA than taking another plane trip, and that he has been a solid enough presence on the team to merit captain status, when a different type of NBA superstar might have made more in public of having his entire team dismantled around him.

    Why do I feel Rondo’s proud status as a Kentucky Wildcat made it easier for you to target him for criticism, Kent? Ahab came to an unhappy end, and never came close to defeating the White Whale. Give it up.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Post has nothing to do with Rondo, other than he’s the guy who put Brad in a tough spot. The incident is only interesting because it’s Brad’s first test as the leader of millionaires rather than kids who ride their bikes to practice.

      I’ve never busted on a UK kid or former player – I don’t think. Plenty of easy shots to take, but the kids should be held responsible for a corrupt culture. I save the invective for the adults.


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