Fall is my favorite time of the year. Part of it is the weather, part of it is the smell and the crispness of the air, and part of it is that basketball is starting again. Midnight madness, the official kickoff for the college basketball preseason, is this weekend, and the NBA is going through its preseason schedule as we speak. And while in the middle of football season, the Sports Guy is already making a prediction:
I gave you Jonathan Papelbon, I gave you Laurence Maroney, and now, I’m giving you Rajon Rondo. And without giving away too much — I want to write about him in detail at some point — I’m going to put this in print right now, and we’re going to leave it right here, in this column, in my archives, forever and ever, then we’re going to come back to it in mid-January when everyone in New York starts bitching about it, and you’ll say to yourself, “Wait, I think I remember Simmons mentioning it in a football column back in mid-October.” So here it is. And it’s not a prediction. It’s not even a premonition. It’s a fact that simply hasn’t become a fact yet.
Here it is: Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah’s entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that’s saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That’s all I’m saying for now.
And let me go on the record right now as saying: I agree. It may not be the single worst mistake of his career as a basketball executive; come on, that’s like picking the worst song Paul McCartney has written since the Beatles broke up. Is “Say, Say, Say” better or worse than “Ebony and Ivory”? Is “Pieces of Eight” better or worse than the theme from “Spies Like Us”? Is “The Girl is Mine” the worst song of all time? Quite possibly. But there’s no objective way to distinguish between such finely grained sediments of crap; it’s all crap. But it was a horrible choice and it certainly fits with the rest of his career.
New York is loaded with a bench full of shoot-first point guards without a clue how to lead a team without jacking up 25 shots a game (Starbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford). Point guard is the single most important position in basketball and they have a roster full of team-killing point guards. Rondo would have been the ideal guy to plug in – a real point guard who doesn’t shoot, primarily because he can’t shoot. He shoots three pointers the way Ben Wallace shoots free throws; it’s just painfully unsettling to watch.
But he’s incredibly quick and he’s got a great handle. And he’s a lockdown defender. He’ll get into the lane, he’ll rack up the assists and he’ll be the first guy on the floor after a loose ball. In other words, he’s exactly what the Knicks need at that position. Which, of course, explains why Isiah Thomas didn’t pick him. It would ruin his Guiness World Record streak of incompetence.