USA Basketball has a consistent history of coming up with excuses for the last cut from the team.
But in Rajon Rondo’s case this summer, they were more reasons that he withdrew as the 13th man. He told Ric Bucher of ESPN that he was hesitant to go in the first place (remember the in-or-out discussion that surrounding whether he would even try out?) but did so because of pressure. His agent Bill Duffy thought it was a good idea. Maybe because it would have helped get some endorsements to make up for the money he lost out on with his below-market contract.
In fact, if it had been up to Rondo, he never would have tried out for the USA squad that ended a 16-year drought by defeating Turkey for the 2010 FIBA World Championship title. Worn out from the Celtics’ narrow Finals loss to the Lakers, his mind on making up for it this season, missing his two-year old daughter, mourning the death of an uncle and disenchanted with European cuisine contributed to his subpar performance with the squad, he said, ultimately leading him to withdraw from the team….
“It was great to practice every day against the best young talent in the league, a veteran like Chauncey Billups and play for a Hall of Fame coach [Mike Krzyzewski],” Rondo said. “But some of these guys hadn’t played since April. Lamar [Odom] and I had just got out of Game 7. And next season is right around the corner. I feel like I had to take advantage of the opportunity I have right now to win another championship. It’s not often you get to play with four Hall of Famers. Another couple of years and I won’t have that.”
Nobody is really going to think less of Rondo for not playing (particularly after the team won the gold and hand quality guard play without him). And he’s right that he is only going to have so many shots at the Larry O’Brien trophy, so he needs to focus his energies.
But in the future — you’re all in or all out. Nothing halfway.