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Rajon Rondo called out Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler and he's right

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The Bulls really do have a leadership problem. The only one able to notice it is Rajon Rondo.

NBA: Preseason-Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo is right. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are wrong for what they did. There’s an old leadership adage that one should criticize in private and praise in public, and it’s one that Rondo seems to abide. The first two sentences of his Instagram post invokes that belief: “My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team.”

One of the worst things you can do to a human being is to shame them in public, to embarrass them in front of the watching world. Conversely, one of the best ways to inspire someone is to hype them up when everyone’s looking. Even when they’re playing bad and you’re frustrated with them.

“You’ll get them next time, just release the ball a little earlier when you shoot” — constructive criticism is much more worthwhile than any “what the hell were you thinking?” People may think is effective because sports coaches in movies and TV shows push it as such. It’s not.

There’s no need to pretend that the player isn’t struggling. But the individual is more aware of their bad play than the supposed leader. What they need at that time, when they’re at their lowest, isn’t someone to double down on them but for someone to lend a hand. Throwing them under the bus further demoralizes them.

Because everyone is wired differently, you can sometimes embolden some players with this heavy-handed tactic, but an empathetic approach is usually better. That’s why Rondo writes: “When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work.”

That Wade and Butler were angry at blowing a 10-point lead in the last three minutes to the Hawks is understandable. That they were annoyed at being the only two players contributing significantly to the offense is even more so. That they then went to the media to isolate themselves as the only two doing their jobs, and then to admonish their teammates, and especially the younger ones who were said to lack passion, forfeits their claim to leadership.

"I can look at Jimmy and say Jimmy's doing his job. Jimmy can look at me and say Dwyane's doing his job. I don't know if we can keep going down the line and be able to say that."

It’s not that some of their criticisms are wrong, but there was no sense in going public. Statements like that are sensational and divisive by themselves, and were always going to become more so the second they hit the internet. They have merit, but throwing them out in front of the media forces their teammates to read about their supposed inferiority and lack of passion. It is impulsive and myopic. Wade and Butler not only distanced themselves from their teammates, they looked down on them.

As Rondo said: “It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently.”

The general attitude to Rondo’s statement seems to be a call for him to leave the Bulls. There’s been a snide attitude towards the message and the irony of him calling for private assessments while posting on social media. There’s an idea that Rondo is not good, and he’s been troublesome on all of his teams, thus he’s the last player that should be saying anything. Even more, he’s calling out the two best players on the team.

But by Wade and Butler going public first with their disapprovals, Rondo had no choice but to retaliate in the same space. Rondo isn’t even defending himself in that post, he’s defending the young players. He’s being their shield: “The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame.”

He has to show them public support so they know that someone has their back, otherwise all the world would know is that Wade and Butler thinks that these players lack passion and effort. If the sides are divided, they were done by those two, not him. It’s even more critical that he did it, because there have been reports that those young players look up to him. He has always supported them, even practicing with them at Summer League and going to D-League games.

His last line about leadership is perfect: “If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

David Foster Wallace once wrote that, “a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

When the Bulls lose games they shouldn’t, blowing leads and failing defensively, the worst thing that can happen is for the veterans to throw the younger players under the bus. They need to learn and to be confident.

Wade even says this himself right after criticizing them to TV cameras: “There's guys in this league that people don't think they can play; once they get into certain situations, once they get certain confidence, they can play.”

That confidence doesn’t fall from the sky, and they can gain it on their own, but they need outside belief, as well. They need for their main guys to acknowledge and help them, even when they’re failing. In that regard, Rondo is more worthy of that designation of leader than are Wade and Butler.

Of course, from the outside, no one can know too much about the locker room dynamic. Perhaps Wade and Butler are very helpful to the other players away from the camera. Yet, for all of the heat that Rondo has gotten for this due largely to his own history, he is right. Nothing good could have come out from what Wade and Butler said. Regardless if they’re right or wrong, it was unnecessary. Attacking your teammates isn’t going to fix your issues. Helping them might.