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Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 11:30 am  |  36 responses

You Got Rondo’d

SLAM 132: …If you were one of those who doubted Boston’s Rajon Rondo would ever become an elite point guard.

Basketball is what we do. And not to sound cocky, but we’re pretty good at it. Here’s just another example: a Rajon Rondo feature that was published last summer in SLAM 132, way before everyone was riding Rondo’s jock.—Ed.

SLAM 132 Feature: Rajon Rondo

by Konate A. Primus

Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo. Amazing young players. The future of the NBA at the point guard position. The innovators of tomorrow.

What separates Rajon Rondo from the other three, beside the fact that he is the only one with a ring (ironic, isn’t it?), is the abundance of abhorrence and disbelief he’s dealt with, year in and year out, during his short career. In his rookie campaign it was, “Why did Boston pick Rondo? He’s too skinny and not a pure point guard.” That year the Celts won 17 games. Rondo’s second year, they doubted his ability to make decisions and knock down jumpers. That year they won 66 games and a historic championship with Rajon as the starting PG. Third year, they snubbed him for a more than deserving Most Improved Player award and looked right past him for the All-Star Game. If you haven’t been paying attention to Rondo, you probably think I’m just talking crazy, but his numbers speak for themselves. And last year, those numbers said 11.9 ppg, 8.2 apg, 5.2 rpg and 1.9 spg (digits which he upped to HOF-caliber numbers over the Celtics’ 14-game Playoff run: 16.9, 9.8, 9.7 and 2.5).

I believe there must be some language in our widespread world where the word “Rondo” is synonymous for “forgotten, little, humble giant.” Because there is honestly no other way to describe the 6-1, 171-pound, long-limbed point guard who’s been doubted and slighted time and time again. Slighted because he’s not a big marketing tool or because he’s not the flashiest on the court, or simply snubbed for reasons Rondo and his fans haven’t even been able to figure out yet.

In actuality, Rondo really couldn’t care less about the NBA and the media overlooking his steady improvement as a PG and as a budding NBA star. Speaking on the phone recently, Rondo digests the way he’s covered, takes a deep breath and explains that while publicity is cool, image isn’t what matters on the court.

“I definitely think I’m one of the best point guards in the League, and that’s how I play the game,” Rondo says. “I think my coaches and teammates believe in me. As far as other cats getting publicity, it doesn’t matter to me. They deserve the notoriety; CP puts up crazy numbers and Deron Williams as well. For me, all I want is a ring, and I got one down and we have another chance this season to try and get another one.”

During the Celts’ championship run in ’07-08, RR was bombarded with so much doubt he started to momentarily believe what people were saying. But he never let it destroy his game. Rondo says it was his backcourt partner in crime, Ray Allen, who always had Rajon’s back.

“I talked to Ray a lot his first season in Boston, and he helped me get through a few of my troubles,” says Rondo. “I really don’t listen to the critics, and I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my play. So whether they doubted me or not, I’m still gonna do what I do best.”

Don’t get it twisted: Rondo has an All-Star supporting cast for his team, from coaches to players. Could the 23-year-old out of Kentucky have made the progress he has if a “player’s” coach didn’t coach him? Would Rondo be the same player if KG and Ray hadn’t joined the Celtics and teamed with P-Double to teach him certain things?

In fact, if it weren’t for Kevin’s injury last season, Rondo would not have felt the need to become the great rebounding point guard he is now, but in Garnett’s absence he knew he had to crash boards to fill a void. You can make the argument that he wouldn’t be as successful on another team, but would’ves, could’ves and should’ves are not what we judge players on. We judge players on their current situation and the numbers they put up. Yes, Rondo has three likely Hall of Famers with him, but they didn’t get a ring without Rondo. Shaq couldn’t win without Kobe or Wade. Chauncey Billups wasn’t recognized as a great point guard until he won his championship with an “All-Star supporting cast” in Detroit. We get too caught up in who has the most highlights or who has the best endorsement deals, and we forget why we play or watch this sport. No one is going to win you a ring by themselves, as we saw with LeBron and company, or the years previous with Kobe and the no show Lake Show. Individual efforts might get you into the Playoffs, it might win you a few games in the series, but your chances of a ring are slim to none. But yet and still, the dude playing the most important position on the floor for the Celtics is more or less forgotten.

Saying Rondo is just an OK point guard isn’t OK. His court vision is among the best in the League and his ability to cut and get to the basket make him among the toughest to defend in the NBA. Just ask Derrick Rose or Rafer Alston, both of whom Rajon gave insurmountable trouble during the Playoffs, on several occasions dropping triple-doubles on steroids. As the numbers shown earlier prove, whether it’s rebounding, passing, scoring or steals, Rondo can put stats on the board for you.

“In the Playoffs, it’s a lot harder to get triple-doubles because the intensity is up and you’re going against the same person possibly seven times. I never plan when I have triple-doubles, it’s just one of those things where I have to feel it. Once I get my rebounding started, I know it’s going to be a good night. Points are the last thing I need to worry about. I’m know I’m going to get a feel, knock down a few shots, make a couple of layups and I’ll have 10 points easy, but I have All-Stars in addition to my other teammates who can score so I don’t worry about that.” Words from a player who understands his role on the team and as point guard in general.

What GM wouldn’t want Rondo playing for his team? That’s a question that was floating around the NBA this off-season, when a Celtics junior executive supposedly made a trade offer that included Rondo as the centerpiece of a deal to Detroit for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey. With humility oozing from his pores, Rondo addresses the situation as a positive: “Being traded isn’t the most horrible thing. Ray’s been traded three times, Kevin, a 12-time All-Star, got traded to us and we ended up wining. So you could either take it as someone doesn’t want me, or you could look at it like someone wants me. I choose to look at it like someone wants me. As long as I have a job that lets me support my family and play ball, I’m thankful for that,” Rondo says.

Nicely put. But the more the situation really sinks in, the more Rondo’s tone starts to waver: “It is like a slap in the face though, because I’ve been with Boston for a little while now but…this is the business.”

Like it or not, Rondo is the future of the Celtics, a young cat constantly growing and becoming a long-limbed, Scottie Pippen-esque player from the point guard position. Surrounded by the League’s best veterans (Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and a coach who was more than a decent player himself), there is no button for failure or an option for mediocrity. Roll your Rs, stretch your Os and give the man his credit where its due, for he shall be a star for the next couple of years.

Even if you keep saying, “That guy came out of nowhere.”

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  • rvr

    the celtics won 66 games in the championship season, not 62. they won 62 last year.

  • http://youtube.com/rajonrondovideos Sean

    youtube.com/rajonrondovideos

    ^^ check out my Rondo youtube page, it has all his highlights from the past 3 seasons.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    If the Celtics actually get past Magic and win the Finals, I hope this kid gets MVP.

  • rvr

    he’s been playoff mvp for the c’s so far. if he keeps it up against the magic and they find a way to contain howard, i think they take the series. rondo isn’t necessarily the leader of this team in every way, but on the floor, it all goes through him.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I absolutley hated Rondo’s guts last year when we played them in the first round. I thought he was dirty and cowardly. But I can’t front. Dude is sick. And, as much as I love Derrick Rose, I just have to put Rondo over him at this point due to his sick overall game.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    On a side note, I don’t know if he even cares really, but Rondo finally slayed his Bassy demon. Back in high school, he desperately wanted to play for Rick Pitino’s Louisville but Pitino chose to spend all his recruiting efforts on Bassy (who spurned him anyways) and Rondo had to “settle” for UK. Then he gets to Boston his rookie year, and look who he’s competing at PG with – Bassy. They both started about 30 games each for the Celtics that year. Now Rondo’s been doing his thing for a minute while Bassy could be labeled a bust, but Rondo’s superiority was confirmed this series when he balled outta control while Bassy watched from the Cavs sidelines.Take that, Pitino!

  • http://fuzzdev.com Steve S.

    Well, I’m from Boston (live in LALA land now), as a still-die-hard Celtics fan I knew how amazing Rondo was going to be. He is an old school point-guard magician.

    “…Got Rondo’d” isn’t a exactly new thing to Boston faithfuls, but, I love that the entire nation got to experience the Cavs getting Rondo’d.

  • http://slamonline.com JL

    a tribute to his quickness is he gets past defenders even as they sag off him daring him to shoot. crazy.

  • Cizzo

    Bottom line line when the P.O’s jump off Rondo elevate his game! Everytime, he’s a big time players when the games count the most. All that regular season hype over when it’s over, I never heard of a regular season champion, or a regular season record being enough to satisfy a true baller!

  • Jagz

    Enigmatic, that was the best piece of writing on Rondo I’ve seen in a while. That Bassy angle is so much more interesting than everything else everybody’s been saying about “is it the big 4?” I appreciate that and we need some journalists like you who know the interesting backstories that make hoops culture so interesting. Again, thanks. I never thought to think about a non-rotation Cavs player as unlocking one of the best insights into Rondo. That’s what hoops journalism should be. I’ll stop gushing now.

    “On a side note, I don’t know if he even cares really, but Rondo finally slayed his Bassy demon. Back in high school, he desperately wanted to play for Rick Pitino’s Louisville but Pitino chose to spend all his recruiting efforts on Bassy (who spurned him anyways) and Rondo had to “settle” for UK. Then he gets to Boston his rookie year, and look who he’s competing at PG with – Bassy. They both started about 30 games each for the Celtics that year. Now Rondo’s been doing his thing for a minute while Bassy could be labeled a bust, but Rondo’s superiority was confirmed this series when he balled outta control while Bassy watched from the Cavs sidelines.Take that, Pitino!”

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com TADOne

    I was one of the doubter’s. Good player but I still don’t like the dude.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    I was never doubter. Well, the only thing I doubted was his 3pt shot and his Free Throws which, both are still pretty bad.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    @ Jagz – I appreciate the love, but I’m no journalist. I’m just another commentator who likes to drop his dos pesos every now and then (I don’t even blog!) and has a long memory and is very interested in player’s psyches and stories beyond the games. I won’t front, I have thought about writing, but then I come on this site and I feel like a lot of these cats on here are on a whole ‘nother level I might never reach. Again, appreciate the love though. Hmm…maybe I SHOULD write a blog…

  • Rob

    Rondo is great, but he is not better than D. Will, CP3, or Rose. His jumper is awful and he cannot shoot FTs. Please if Rondo played on the Bulls he would be garbage. Rose developed a nasty mid-range jumper this year and will expand that out to the 3 point line this offseason.

    Sure helps when you can’t kick it to Pierce on the elbow, KG down low, or Ray Allen behind the arc.

  • Jagz

    @enigmatic: once you get your blog started up, let me know! Brilliant stuff.

  • Scottie Pimpin

    after a couple free agent signing, all you are about to Drosed.

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  • Scottie Pimpin

    obviously im a bulls fan, and i dont like rondos face.

    but what i do love about rondo is that the man plays chess on the basketball court. and the instincts the kid has is lovely to watch.

  • Scottie Pimpin

    obviously im a bulls fan, and i dont like rondos face.

    but what i do love about rondo is that he plays chess on the basketball court. and the instincts the kid has is lovely to watch.

  • BostonBaller

    Rob Posted: May.14 at 3:28 pm Does that mean J Kidd sucked for most of his career? Didn’t you read above you that you can’t fault a player b/c of whom his teammates are? It’s ok not to like him or his game but don’t stretch things to make a pointless point on a point guard. RR actually hit FT’s and a decent amopunt of his jumpers so far these playoffs. how’s the Green hater-aide taste…bitter? lol. just having fun..

  • Melanie

    All I know is Rondo’s hot! Nothing’s worse than being forced to look at an ugly point guard like Derrick Rose or Mike Bibby.

  • The Philosopher

    I’ve never doubted Rondo’s game, for he is truly an elite point guard. With his single hand, he’s altered the career path of The King. He made that entire Cavs team look entirely exposed. He’s everything one would want out of a classic point guard. 3rd best in the entire League.

  • The Philosopher

    If he continues to improve on his jump shot, (which he is right before our eyes) he will be Hall of Fame material.

  • hillbilly

    Totally agree with Jagz. Great posts by Enigmatic.
    Hate the player, don’t hate the game. I had similar feelings about Joakim Noah when he came into the league. I absolutely hated the guy’s guts (UK bias in full effect). But, the more I watch him play, the more I appreciate his game. The Bulls are definitely comin’ up.

  • http://www.youtube.com/ The Promise

    I watched every game he played at Kentucky, being a UK fan and all, and I thought that with a little work on his jumper, and getting on the right team, he had superstar potential. He has teammates to pass to, and his jumpshot is improving. I think he has stepped up to the level of Paul and Williams during this year’s playoffs. He has that Nash-like peripheral vision that makes him think he has eyes in the back of his head. Some of his passes will fake you out from the televison. He’s quite an amazing talent, scary thing is, hes just a 4th year player. The best is yet to come.

  • http://www.youtube.com/ The Promise

    *make you think* excuse the typo.

  • Rob

    BostonBaller, I said I think Rondo is great, but his jumper is awful and he cannot shoot FTs. I do not see much improvement over last year in comparison to D. Rose. How can you not look at a player’s teammates, thats ridiculous! If he was on the Bulls, defenses would pack the lane and force him to shoot jumpers and he would have to pass to Kurt Hinrich to clank open jumpers, Loul Deng, and no body down low, that’s not big Jo’s game. Specifically, all of Rondo’s weaknesses would be MAGNIFIED, he would look terrible. In Boston, that can’t happen because he plays with three HOFs.
    I have no idea where you are going with J. Kidd, he played on some amazing Nets teams.

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  • MVPballer

    You don’t rate a player after his teammates, you rate him by how good he plays. And, right now, Rondo is playing as one of the best PG’s in the L.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ Moose

    I have to say I told you so. I called Rondo’s stardom three years ago, and the SLAM faithful know it. Rondo>>>>any PG in the East.

  • http://yahoo.com Chi-Town Stand up!

    @Moose… except for D-Rose! The last game they played 3 days before the season ended Rose put up 39 on Rondo, and had him glued to the bench cause he was in foul trouble most of the game! D-Rose wil1 truly show his Greatness next season!

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    i told my girlfriend the title of this article, and she said she wanted to go Rondo’d. damnit.

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    get* Rondo’d. and to me, among point guards, Rondo’s behind only Paul, Nash, and Williams. but it’s also gotten to the point where if someone said he was the best in the league, while i wouldn’t agree with them, i wouldn’t call them crazy either. i mean, he’s by a good margin the best defensive point guard and the best rebounding point guard.

  • http://www.twitter.com/notebooknick NotebookNick

    Rondo’s definitely developing, but if the Celtics win anything this year, I hope he doesn’t win any awards. His head is big enough already.

  • http://recognizethegame.com Rosef

    I like how you all preface the story like yall were ahead of the game. Predicting Rondo is nice last summer after he lit up the bulls and won a ring the year before is not like insider knowledge. Any legit hoop fan saw flashes of this coming in his rookie season, hell every 15 year old girl in Boston even loved rondo before you got on his jock with this article. Good piece none the less though.

  • http://www.rajonrondo.com samone

    i love rajon and have always did he is the best everyone likes to front on him but hes good

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