Take a guess at what the worst performing stock on the New York Stock Exchange has been over the past month. Hint, it is not Hitachi or any other Japanese ADR. And it isn’t Radio Shack or Nokia or Barnes & Noble, three red-headed stepchildren who each seem to have lost their way. No, the worst performing stock over the past month has been Rajon Rondo Industries (NYSE: RR), the Boston-based company that makes its money running the hometown Celtics.
RR has simply had a rotten month and over the past week or so, the stock has taken a turn for the worse. Much worse. That is because his assists are down. His scoring is down. His shooting – never a strength – has been woeful. His allergy to drawing fouls has flared up. Opposing guards are abusing him as he has seemingly given up team defense for a life as a free-lancer. And his crunch-time work has been appalling.
If you want to know how far the stock has fallen, this is what my guy at Morgan Stanley just gave me. In early January, Rondo’s stock price was the third highest of any PG in the league. After the Miami game on February 13th, he had dropped to five. A month later, he is now trading at sixteen and sellers are everywhere.
Now some think that Rondo’s problems can be traced to the Kendrick Perkins trade. The theory being that Rondo has had trouble adjusting to life without his puppy dog Kendrick. The timing certainly supports this theory as Rondo played great on February 22nd, Perkins was traded on February 23rd, and the next night, Rondo was given a D+ for his work in Denver. Subsequently, Rondo has played nine games and been flunked six times. Needless to say, it has not been a pretty stretch for RR.
Rondo’s defenders – like WEEIs’ Kirk Minihane –seem skeptical of this theory, arguing it can’t be reconciled with a couple of nice RR performances earlier this month. But I am not so sure there isn’t something here. Yes, correlation does not equal causality but it doesn’t rule it out either. And in this case, something about Rondo has been different since that trade.
Specifically, I see a guy behaving like he THINKS he inherited the team. And a guy who is now running the team as he sees fit. I don’t know what this has to do with Perkins leaving but I now see a different guy out there driving the Celtic bus. An overly-meticulous guy who seems determined to run Boston’s offense with an iron fist (and dribble possessions away). And a guy who seems hell bent on playing defense more like a roaming safety than a cover corner.
This may be a stretch but it is almost as if Rondo’s play is sending a message to the front office which is ….. go fuck yourself for trading my friend. “If you are going to play by those rules then I am going to play by my own rules.” Is this theory inconceivable? I mean we are talking about a very strange bird here. Normally, I would laugh at my own thought. But Rondo is a freak. A total head-scratcher who seems quite headstrong. Are you telling me that he is not a guy who can hold a grudge? And worse yet, let that grudge impact his play? I don’t think this is a stretch at all. More importantly, I think we see new evidence of this each night.
Now Rondo’s defenders are hinting that he may be hurt. Give him a week off and you will see a better level of performance. And Doc is warning everyone to cool down, claiming that Rondo is just going through a rough patch.
I hope that is the case but I am worried that something else is going on here. After all, this is a top-five PG who is playing like a scrub. And that just doesn’t happen without cause.
My biggest concern now is what if I am right? What if Rondo has gone off the rails? If that is the case, how in the world do you turn this liability back into the sizable asset that it was two months ago? This is a major problem facing the Celtics today and one that I don’t think they considered before they traded Rajon’s puppy.