When Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in Game 3 against the Heat and returned to play the fourth quarter, it was nearly impossible not to be impressed. The man’s elbow was bending the wrong direction, he was in immense amounts of pain, yet he returned 10 minutes later to finish up the game with only one good arm. Many people compared his return to Willis Reed, who played a few minutes in the NBA Finals with a broken leg. I never saw what Reed did, but I haven’t seen many more courageous acts on the court than Rondo, and I argued it earned him hero status in Boston. I still feel that is the case. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich does not.
Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News “It’s really been hard to watch the playoffs and have them make Rondo out like Willis Reed. It’s like, Manu couldn’t even play the first game (against Memphis), and we probably shouldn’t have played him again. He went out there and worked through it, and you didn’t hear any of that kind of crap.”
“It’s like Rondo is the next coming of Willis Reed, the thing he did and the character he showed,” Popovich said. “Maybe he did show character and he was tough and all that, but it is no different than what Manu did. That just kind of angers me on a selfish level, so to speak.”
In case you’re wondering how Manu Ginobili became a part of the discussion, it’s because the Spurs guard hyperextended his elbow in the regular season finale against the Suns. The injury was so bad Gregg Popovich held Ginobili out of Game 1 against Memphis despite Manu’s pleas to play. Ginobili played the rest of the series with an elbow brace and even admitted his 7-for-13 performance at the free throw line Game 2 was partially attributed to the bulky brace.
I agree with Pop that Manu Ginobili playing through his elbow injury has gone overlooked by many critics and fans. I also agree with him that Ginobili’s value to the Spurs is underestimated by many people. But he could have made his points just as easily without questioning Rondo’s return. What Rondo did took courage, dedication, heart, and an extremely high pain tolerance. What Ginobili did was similar. So why do you have to knock Rondo to pump up your guy, Pop? It just isn’t necessary. Both guys are tremendous players who mean a lot to their teams and who played through injuries. Both teams also struggled because their guys weren’t completely healthy. Can’t we just leave it at that?
Chest bump to Red’s Army for the storyGoogle+