19 People Who've Tried to Figure Out Rajon Rondo
Photo via Rajon Rondo / Facebook
Every time you look, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is doing something unusual. He’s now collected 10 or more assists in his last 32 straight games. (He also hurt his right ankle Wednesday night, we hope not seriously.) In September, he interned at GQ, and last week, he taught algebra at a local high school.
Because Rondo is so blissfully weird, so stylistically different than other NBA stars, many have attempted to decode his method. Some even eloquently. Presented without comment, here are 19 of my favorite things written about Rajon Rondo:
1. Paul Flannery, The Classical:
It finally hit me, after all these years, that I’ve been looking at it wrong. It’s not what he does, but how he does it that is so mesmerizing. Rondo, it seems to me, is the NBA’s resident cubist. Using the rectangular dimensions of the court as his canvas, he takes everything we know about patterns, shapes, and space and bastardizes them in a distorted image that is as disorienting as it is inspiring.
2. Bill Simmons, ESPN:
I have spent as much time trying to figure out Rondo these last few years as either of my kids. He’s like a cat: Sometimes he jumps on your lap, sometimes you don’t see him for days, sometimes he goes down in the basement and kills mice for you, sometimes he’s kicking over his own kitty litter box, sometimes he’s inexplicably beating up a poodle, sometimes he’s hissing at your children … you just never know.
3. Bethlehem Shoals, The Classical:
There always seems to be something coiled within his plainspoken phrases. Maybe it’s because we know the way he plays, unorthodoxy that can come across as acid at times. He’s utterly distinctive and yet gives off the impression of being blank, opaque. It’s what remains concealed, and yet intuited, that colors our understanding of him. He plays his game as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, and certainly, it’s logic and trickery make for their own readily identifiable language. I wouldn’t even describe him as surprising; he’s internally consistent, just impossible to anticipate. Rajon Rondo does everything wrong and yet frequently achieves the right outcome. That’s not complexity, it’s a paradox enacted. No one has a feel for Rondo, but that sense of discomfort is there for the taking.
4. Tom Ley, Deadspin:
Rondo has never had the kind of skill set normally associated with virtuoso performances. His game has always been impressive but eccentric. He’s a point guard who doesn’t really shoot jumpers, a playmaker who avoids the free-throw line, a little guy who loves to crash the offensive boards. Bethlehem Shoals may have summed up Rondo’s game the best, describing him as a player who inverts the court, eschewing the vast expanses that defenders give him at the top of the key in favor of forays along the baseline. Basketball is all about creating your own space; Rondo’s game is all about creating his own angles.
5. Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston:
For all his brillance, three adjectives have muddied Rondo’s image: stonefaced, stubborn, moody.
“Like Bird, right?” Rondo offered. “Danny [Ainge] told me Larry was the same way.’’
That is an accurate assessment. Bird also proved to be aloof and ornery in the heat of competition. No wonder when the Celtics briefly courted Chris Paul with Rondo as trade bait that Larry Legend was among those keenly interested in acquiring him.
6. Ian Thomsen, Sports Illustrated:
Rondo played quarterback for Eastern High School in his hometown of Louisville. He gave up on the sport when he realized he wasn’t big enough to be a major-college QB, but to this day play-action fakes are part of his repertoire. He routinely hides the ball behind his hip as he did while driving by J.J. Redick for a three-point play in the second quarter last Saturday. Every few games he likes to employ his version of the famed Hakeem Olajuwon ball fake, stopping a drive in the shadow of a shot-blocking center and extending the ball in his cupped right hand before pulling it back, like a quarterback keeping on the option, then pivoting to dish or shoot.
7. Tom Ziller, SB Nation:
A chess analogy? Let’s do this.
I actually disagree that Pierce is the Celtics’ queen: in this series, at least, I’d give the nod to Rajon Rondo. Pierce and Kevin Garnett are the queen’s knights: critical to any offensive assault, vital for the defense of the king. … Note: I’m sympathetic to the idea that Rondo’s idiosyncratic game is more akin to a knight than a queen, who (like LeBron) is more all-encompassing than odd. But in this series, Rondo has really been the driver of narrative for the Celtics. He has been at the center of it all. In this series, he is absolutely the queen.
8. Krolik1157, Free Darko:
I’m not even going to try and put a quick label on Rondo. He simply defies them, whether positive or negative. As much as any player in the NBA, Rondo is paradox incarnate. Rather than being a paradigm of quiet contribution and efficiency at all times—the standard “know your role” PG—Rondo is at once an unstoppable for whom there is no possible answer and a gaping wound whose weakness provides a possible attack point.
9. Hua Hsu, Grantland:
There’s always been something slightly off about Rajon Rondo. It’s those too-broad shoulders better suited for a cape, those faintly bugged eyes, the one game when he seems to be a wizard playing a child’s game and then the next one after that when it all turns around. But once you train your eye to follow this gangly, green blur zigzagging across the TV, these qualities grow familiar. In fact, you begin to wonder whether it’s actually the rest of us whose arms are just really short.
10. Andrew Sharp, SB Nation:
When Rondo’s rolling, his game doesn’t explode on opposing defenses so much as it slowly suffocates them. First with penetration, then with step-back jumpers, and finally, when the defense swarms, he’ll hit his teammates. Not to mention the Gumby arms he brings to the defensive end, where he harassed Miami all night. The whole time, he does it unlike anybody else in basketball, wrapping himself around defenders, making play after play that makes no sense.
11. Dan Devine, Ball Don’t Lie:
They were there because Rondo took over the team, showed that he could dominate games by scoring as well as by passing and rebounding, and proved that whether or not he’s the quote-unquote “best point guard in the game,” he is inarguably one of its greatest and most difficult-to-solve riddles.
12. Beckley Mason, True Hoop:
What I haven’t seen guards his size do is use pass fakes from a standstill as well as he does. Opponents play off Rondo to better obscure passing angles, especially after he picks up his dribble. To compensate, Rondo, like a quarterback sitting in the pocket, uses violent pass fakes to shift the defense and open avenues to his teammates.
13. Tzvi Twersky, Slam:
I mean, it’s hard to appraise Rondo’s game. It’s hard because of preconceived notions, and it’s even harder because his game isn’t evaluable by an eye-test, isn’t conventional by any standard. The 6-2 point guard from Kentucky passes when you think he’s gonna shoot, shoots when you think he’s gonna pass, and does it all with a creative flourish and without any post-game explanation.
14. Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak:
Merely enjoying Rajon Rondo meant focusing on the elements that make him so damned unique and compelling. Not only does Rondo thrive in the aforementioned chaos, but he has an ingenious way of creating it. He’ll often stand in one place, throwing fake passes through the air. The defense is more likely to move than the ball is, even if they know to watch for this. Some defenders bite on the fakes, others don’t. The space he opens up isn’t predictable, like a pocket pass avenue in a pick and roll. A faked out defense can be a mish mash of players flying and flailing in overlapping directions. But in the mess, he sees angles that will form a split-second later. Chaos triggers his prescient instincts. Rondo shakes up a snow globe and it becomes his crystal ball.
15. Scoop Jackson, ESPN:
He attacks the game with a beautiful awkwardness that is sometimes harder to appreciate than Ghostface’s flow. His stops and starts and changes of direction can’t be figured out even after hours of film study.
16. Bruce Arthur, National Post (via Twitter):
Rajon Rondo is like a little eccentric basketball wizard.
17. Amos Barshad, Grantland:
It’s a simple, gorgeous bit of misdirection. As he drives to the basket, Rondo cups the ball, then scoops it behind his back, using a freakishly long arm to really drive the point home. With the fake made, he rocks the ball back in time to finish the layup unperturbed. The clip I linked to is…an ideal iteration: Both Brandon Jennings, the primary defender, and Ersan Ilyasova, the help defender, completely bite on the fake, and are reduced to wander the court like two sad, scared schoolchildren left behind on a field trip. As far as I can tell, no one has named the move. So, how about: The Rondo.
18. Scott Leedy, Hardwood Paroxysm:
And for all the questions we have about Rajon Rondo, maybe the Celtics are confident they know what they have. Yes, they will play ugly. Yes, most of you are bound to complain, and whine about how “awful they are”. But we still get Rajon Rondo’s dismissive, idiosyncratic, pterodactyl-armed brilliance.
19. Bob Ryan, Boston Globe:
So the question goes to Mr. Brian Scalabrine, a noted scholar of the game.
“Stylistically speaking, Mr. S, just whom does Rajon Rondo remind you of?”
“That’s a good question,” he replies. “I’m going to have to give you an answer on a different day. That’s a research question.”
That day may be a long time coming. Rajon Rondo may very well be utterly sui generis. Just one of those Rondos on The Ark, you know?
In the end, I’m not sure anyone will fully figure Rondo out. But that’s fine. We want a little mystery in our super heroes.