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The Importance Of An Aggressive Rajon Rondo

 

When Rajon Rondo shows feisty aggressiveness in a game’s first 12 minutes, it’s the rarest of treats. Watching it live, knowing you’re in for 48 minutes of “I could be witnessing history” basketball, is like heading to a golf course at 3 pm on a Sunday and not getting paired up with two people who married each other before the Vietnam War. It’s walking into a crowded Starbucks and snagging the last empty, comfy chair located right above an outlet. It’s winning a bet with your girlfriend and getting to see Chernobyl Diaries instead of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Moments like these are few and far between; little bits of time that deserve to be remembered—cherished, even—with proper acknowledgment.

Sometimes Rondo’s impressive stat stuffing performances look like subtle invasions. In some of them you sit there sopping it up, yet as the score rocks back and forth, and his shot attempts spread themselves further and further apart, the pervasive way Rondo debilitates an opponent can sometimes get overlooked. He has the athleticism, speed, and skill to take over any basketball game with his ability to score the ball, but his temperamental behavior tends to combat a self-created aura of dominance, leaving his teammates, coaches, owners, and fans to wonder why he doesn’t attack the basket more often—why he can’t recognize that sometimes the team needs him to use those gifts of his to score instead of distribute.

Wednesday night Rondo gave us his finest first quarter of the season—in arguably his team’s most important game of the year—scoring 13 points on eight shots; registering just one assist, showing that his mind was committed to one thing: scoring. When Greg Stiemsma subbed in for Garnett after the team’s current MVP picked up two quick fouls, Rondo scored Boston’s next nine points before setting up Pierce for an inspiring dunk. He understood he was the only Celtic carrying a flashlight. Rondo was there to lead the way. This article is my way of showing some appreciation. 

After Philadelphia makes a basket it takes Rondo exactly five seconds to run down the court, spin through an unprepared defense, and answer with a finger roll off the glass.

Just watch this play one more time. NOBODY expects Rondo to do what he did. Not Jrue Holiday, who’s left desperately trying to poke at the ball as Rondo’s already blown by. Not Kevin Garnett, who’s setting an away screen for Pierce to pop out at the three-point line. Not Avery Bradley, who arrives at the basket off one of his famous baseline cuts after Rondo has already put the ball in the hoop. And not Brandon Bass, who barely appears on the screen before turning around and heading back the other way to play defense. This is Rondo at his “Best Point Guard in the World” level, leaving everyone else in awe.

Here, Rondo uses Pierce’s ball screen to catapult himself towards the basket. When this happens, Lavoy Allen and Andre Iguodala try to contain him, but Rondo punches first with one hell of a floater high off the glass. In Game 2, this was the situation where you’d see Rondo moving a bit slower, allowing himself to survey the defense, analyze the double team, and find a wide open shooter. Here he’s almost moving too fast, and Bass doesn’t even have enough time to set himself up for a weak side jumper.

Here’s a perfect example of Rondo oozing with enthusiasm to score. First he cuts to the free-throw line to make himself available for a pass from Garnett. Once there, he’s presented with two pretty great options: a wide open Avery Bradley in the corner, and a wide open Paul Pierce hovering near the left elbow. I’m sure Philadelphia’s defense expected him to make one of those possibilities a reality, but instead he tosses up a perfect floater that softly plops through the net.

After all that aggressiveness, and all those shots at the rim that made Philly shake its head and trot down to set up their offense, Rondo takes advantage of a team expecting him to shoot, and finds a wide open Mickael Pietrus in the corner.  (Apparently, it had a frustrating effect on one of the building’s security guards.)

When Rondo chooses to score early in a game, the floor opens up even wider later on. When this happens, he’s the one offensive question this Celtics team can pose that every defense in the league is unable to answer. In Monday night’s loss, Rondo didn’t look for his own shot. He got to the rim and still looked to get others involved. It was strange to see. Rondo’s a smart guy, but sometimes he’s too smart for his own good. Sometimes he tends to forget that the objective of each possession is to put the ball in the basket. But not on Wednesday. Wednesday he forced us to notice.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

  • zach

    Rondo has crazy speed, vision, strength, and coordination, but for such an incredible athlete its strange that he does not have the "ups" you would expect. He has to rely on those scoop and odd angled shots to finish. He makes a good % of them but imagine if he were better at elevating and finishing strong. But nitpicking aside he is the best pure pg in the game right now

    • Wes

      Although styles are very different, he reminds me of John Stockton in that his game is horizontal rather than vertical. It bodes well for career longevity. I live in Chicago and witnessed the magical first few years of Rose's career, but was always concerned about injury because of his high-flying, aggressive style. Alas, the magical Rose era is over. He may come back and be very good, but those breathtaking forays down the lane ending in a forty inch vertical jump and twisting layup are over. Rondo has at least another decade.

  • Anthony

    Are you referring to his jumping ability? He can dunk rather easily but I'm sure he's just trying to conserve his energy for other parts of his game. Here are a couple of examples:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e4BwXZcj0o http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_olJ8a2RkM&fe

  • Anthony

    Don't forget about this play that made Dwade look stupid. Celts won that game in OT btw.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUn5eQSUBKc&fe

  • HeartofKG

    My god that last clip is so beautiful to watch. Rondo knew exactly where Pietrus was and just made the defender look like a child. I can't believe that intensity and focus is the only problem for a guy with this much talent. Here's hoping he can kick it into this gear night in and night out because that's how we're gonna win #18.

  • skeeds

    I think Rondo's multiple wrist/elbow/arm injuries have made him a lot cautious. And it's understandable, He pretty much never goes for a dunk, even when no one's in front of him. And he often lets his "fear" of collisions dictate his offense. Like game 2, where he turned down layups for seemingly no reason at all.

    Let's just hope he continues to be more and more aggressive, because he's really unstoppable when he's at it…

    • Robert

      I think you hit the nail on the head. There's plenty of highlights of Rondo dunking (he's had some PARTICULARLY nasty putback dunks) but he's also been on the receiving end of some hellacious fouls when he's in the air and vulnerable. His arms are long enough that he doesn't need get as high as Rose to get the ball to the cup.

  • Switcharoo

    See he can shoot, it’s just most night he would rather assist. I’ve been saying this all along. People say hes not a good PG because of his lack of shooting. What will they say now I wonder I wonder. Freaking kids got talent its time to recognize!
    And to think he has years ahead of him, let’s just hope he stays in bean town.

  • CG12

    ESPN has, at various points, tracked the number of dunks each player on the Cs had. For a great deal of the season, Rondo had zero dunks. I isn't that he can't throw down dunks, it's just that he isn't usually in position to do so. I have hazy memories of him throwing down some pretty huge jams on people – I wish I could remember more specifically. He also likes to make the last minute dish for the assist instead of finishing it himself.

    • Josh

      How bout his naughty sick posterization against the Detroit Pistons in 2008 or 2009. And it was an and 1.

      • CG12

        YouTube confirms – Rondo has thrown down some very large dunks in his career. The And-1 on Jason Maxiell. Several big put-back jams. Near posterizations of both Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. I think he has decided that dunking is too risky. When he gets way up like that, he is really exposed and could easily get seriously injured.

        • Phil

          The slam over Bosh was my desktop background for a good year after it happened. Just a beautiful play.

          Rondo definitely has the ability to dunk. I'd say its a combination of quickly putting it on the glass being safer as far as hard fouls and blocks go, and that launching over a defender like that is a very high degree of difficulty. Some people are better at dunking in traffic than others, but as long as he can still finish at the rim, its inconsequential really.

          • skeeds

            sorry guys… I'm pretty sure his dunking days are over. A guy can only land on his wrist so many times before he realizes he doesn't need this.
            Fortunately he's smart enough that he's working on developing a crazy arsenal of shots, off the glass, floaters, reverse, and he using english to force shots in without risking getting knocked down.
            Think Steve Nash and Tony Parker. If Rondo develops Parker's consistency on his shots around the rim, we're looking at a HOF career.

  • Robert

    What's mind-boggling is that, out of all the players in the NBA, Rondo is far-and-away the player most likely to record a 20/20/20 triple double.

    That particular feat, at least according to the following link, has been done exactly once in the history of the NBA – by Wilt Chamberlain.
    http://community.allhiphop.com/discussion/31941/t

    • High Rollers

      The odds of history are stacked pretty hard against that particular feat, but you're right… Rondo's the only semi-realistic candidate. For a guy who can get half that (a regular triple-double) in his sleep and three-quarters that (a 15-15-15) game with just a tad more effort and execution, a 20-20-20 game does exist out there in the realm of real possibility. But then, and this is the last time I'll say this (not really), anything's possible. It's just that, you'd have to imagine him stealing some rebounds from his own teammates to get that board stat. The way this team rebounds, though, they probably wouldn't mind all that much. I must remember KG being shocked, mind-blown, and ever so slightly appalled after that epic T-D over Cleveland in '10. A shorty with 18 boards? That's just wrong.

  • JR99

    What I want to ask is just: why was Wednesday night a surprise? Why doesn't RR do this every night? He will have to keep his game at (or at least close to) the level of game 3 for the Cs to get the title this year. Maybe we can get through the East with only intermittently-great Rondo, but that's not likely in the Finals. The good news is that Rondo has always stepped up in the playoffs, more so as the competition gets tougher.

    Anyway, Philly game 4 will be highly instructive. If he's flipped his playoffs switch, tonight's RR will be a lot like game 3's. I think that's what we'll see.

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