It’s Rondo’s Time; Cavs Searching

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 23, 2010
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Michigan State’s Tom Izzo

With nothing but baseball on the horizon, we’ve got to get our basketball licks in.

As far as a pre-emptive strikes goes, Boston’s signing of point guard Rajon Rondo a year before he had a chance to test the free-agent market was a move of pure genius or fantastic luck. The five-year, $55 million deal was a significant upgrade over his original three-year deal that paid him a mere $2.094 million in a year when he was the Celtics’ best player in the post-season. Had Boston refused to budge from its concerns over Rondo’s leadership qualities and ability to work well with the senior-laden squad, a worry that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and owner Wyc Grousbeck openly admitted to Rondo’s agent, the engine to the Celtics’Eastern Conference winning steamroller may have left town as the anchor piece in a LeBron James signing coup.

Rondo, whose chest-thumpingly cool surname just cries for single-name celebrity recognition, carried the team as Boston’s big three went through various veteran shutdown modes as the playoffs wore on. While most of the post season conversation revolved around James’ future, Dwight Howard’s fall to sidekick status and Kobe Bryant’s climb up the all-time Lakers’ list, 2010 has been the year of Rondo. He may not have walked away with a ring, but no player took advantage of the sport’s biggest stage to have a coming-out party.

That rush of air wafting across the plains a week ago was the collective breath of Mitten State basketball fans upon hearing the news that the university’s greatest contribution to basketball since Magic Johnson punched out the Sycamores before revitalizing West Coast basketball has decided to remain in East Lansing. The courting of Tom Izzo by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was a real threat - even with a loaded Spartans team that is a virtual Final Four lock and might have won a title in April if not for the loss of guard Kalin Lucas.

Had James been under contract, MSU would likely have been looking for its second head coach in 34 years, home state history be damned. No coach is going to turn down the package of King James and a massive pay increase while remaining close to home.

That Izzo was tempted to look elsewhere - and what coach doesn’t have the ego to entertain thoughts of NBA success - is irrelevant. The nine days of darkness left many fans angry and self-righteous media members miffed at the lack of information, but in the end, Izzo made the right choice for three reasons:

* The NBA is no place for a successful college coach, not even if James is part of the package. Had Izzo taken the job, he would have replaced a coach who had the highest winning percentage in team history, and who was the NBA coach of the year just one season ago. That’s not much job security for a coach who hasn’t had to send out a resume in 15 years. Plus, as was noted earlier, the Spartans are loaded.

* Lucas returns along with back court mate Durrell Summers and the forward tandem of Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. As a group, the two juniors and two seniors combined for 42.4 points, 25.3 rebounds and 3.8 steals per game. Add in returning shooters Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, and incoming shooting guard Keith Appling and center Adreian Payne, and even if James comes back, it is unlikely the Cavaliers will be able to match the Spartans’ level of success.

* Finally, and perhaps most important, had Izzo taken Gilbert’s offer, he would have had the difficult job of explaining his decision to Summers and Lucas, who returned for the sole reason of chasing a title. Not to mention those students who held a candlelight vigil outside Breslin Center in an attempt to convince the state’s most-beloved college coach since Bo Schembechler to stick around.

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