A point guard plays basketball on a basketball court. Basketball exerts a type of influence that goes unrecognized by one segment of our culture, and embeds deeply in the rest of us. A point guard determines the tone of an offense. Rondo is an iconoclastic point guard who defies categorization. Rondo is equal parts Maestro and recluse. He is the unifying force and the stubborn know-it-all. He is the straight-A student and the college dropout. He creates standing ovations and then leaves the stage. No bow. No middle finger. Just leaves. His job is done when you start clapping. Something few realize. Few athletes are willing to wield a unique persona that also appears genuine. Fewer bend the game to their will. Unparalleled vision on the court evoking the greats of my youth: Magic, Stockton and Larry. If you rise high enough, you get one name. Rondo. Hoops visionaries. The word “iconoclast” floats to the surface.
Rondo was forged by older brothers in Louisville. He watched them, absorbed them, and then beat them. He was the fastest and the most cunning. He was shown how to destroy the wills of opponents by three of the mentally toughest teammates he could have imagined and a coach whose passion, dedication and sarcastic humor bled out onto the floor of every practice. Work. It doesn’t feel like work when it’s working.
Ray Allen’s militaristic pregame routine, maniacally obsessive precision and focus on fitness enabled him to become a three-point assassin. That and hundreds of thousands of jumpers. Rondo watched and learned. The silent stubborn types sometimes clash, but the clashing occurred at the end, and we’re talking about the beginning. Paul Pierce’s inward-focused Buddha, the slow-motion elbow isolations, greasing the wheels of shorter defenders and draining jumpers at will. Pierce was the balance and yes, the Truth finished many a game with his patented step-back. Rondo watched the passionate Pierce feed on the crowd’s energy.
Of the legendary teammates, it was Kevin Garnett’s fire that stirred Rondo the deepest. Call it animal spirit, all primal screams, x-rated smack-talk, and a psychological edge. Larry . A chip on your shoulder is one thing. How about carrying around a boulder? Rondo fell in tune with that nasty streak. His best friend named Perk, the other young buck on those 2008 Celtics. What a conflagration those five made. What a season to hold as a memory and redemption song for a storied franchise.
Rondo leaves on the cusp of his 29th birthday. Still a young soul bubbling with ideas and renditions yet unheard. The Mavs will turn heads in the coming months and the young Celtics will be busy with a foundation to set. In time, we’ll look back and smile at it all. For now, we mourn the exit of our iconoclastic point man.
Further Rondo Reading
Sean Grande, longtime Celtics radio announcer (on Understanding the enigmatic Rondo)
From the beginning, everything about Rajon Rondo seemed out of whack.
He was drafted too low for his skill. His hands were too big for his body. His IQ seemed way too high for a 20-year-old rookie. His social graces with the media way too low. He made easy things look difficult, he made the impossible look routine. He butted heads with the ultimate player’s coach, the established and respected NBA vet. Yet, he seemed to meld minds with the unknown wunderkind coach from college.
He couldn’t make a free throw or knock down a three…until it mattered most. He couldn’t stop his disinterest in Tuesday night games on basic cable. He couldn’t be stopped in Sunday afternoon games on ABC. Regular season games were his jam sessions; playoff games were his symphony. He owned a master’s degree, in degree of difficulty.
Paul Flannery, SB Nation
The Celtics beat the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in what was one of their most convincing wins of the season. After starting the game with a flurry of turnovers, Rajon Rondo had 13 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds. It was one of his best performances in a season that has already seen him rack up three triple doubles.
Bethlehem Shoals, GQ
It’s not unusual for a team to trade its best player, especially when that player is flawed, temperamental, and not capable of carrying a team on his own. Rajon Rondo is all of those things, which explains why the Boston Celtics were so eager to unload him. Yet those negatives are also why Rondo why he should flourish in Dallas.
On paper, Rondo is irresistible. He’s a multi-dimensional point guard who gives an offensive system personality. Rondo pushes the ball in the open court and when the game slows down, he has knack for making plays when no one’s expecting it. He somehow catches defenses off-guard even as he does exactly what his job description states. Rondo complicates the obvious at every turn. It’s his greatest strength, and it’s also why we end up struggling with the questions about his streaky scoring, his miserable jumper, his aloofness, or his seemingly erratic will to win.