|Posted on November 26, 2012 at 8:55 AM|
Last night was yet another strange experience in the Rondo Universe. We saw, it seemed, the best and the worst from Rondo. In the first half, Rondo was pure magic. On the defensive end, he seemed to make life miserable for Jameer Nelson, and on the offensive end, he effortlessly controlled the game, giving the team whatever it needed on offense (points scored, rebounds, assists), driving the team to a commanding lead (with major help from his backup, Leandro Barbosa), and driving himself to the threshold of a triple double by halftime.
Had the second half been like the first, last night would have been a historic game for Rondo. It was pretty historic anyway, as Rondo tied Stockton for the second longest double digit assist streak in NBA history, but it was right after that landmark accomplishment, after Rondo's tenth assist, that Rondo's focus on the game seemed to drift. It wasn't just Rondo who seemed to slacken, of course. Pierce started off the third quarter horribly, but he dialed back in later in the quarter. Rondo never seemed to dial back in, until Doc sat him on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. That, and the Magic having grabbed a lead, seemed to finally bring Rondo back into the game, and he helped the Cs drive through the Magic for the win, but even in the overtime Rondo lost focus. When he was one rebound away from the triple double that he really should have nailed down already, he apparently began to devote himself more to hunting rebounds than to winning the game. One one play, he dove for an offensive rebound that he had little chance at, and as a result, it seemed, Jameer Nelson hit a key shot at the other end to bring the Magic back.
Twice in one game, Rondo almost lost us the game by obsessing over numbers, it seems to me, and this in turn forced KG and Pierce to play big minutes when they should have been able to relax more. Being aware of such considerations is an important part of being a team leader. Rondo has to realize that when he dials out of the game, he's putting more pressure on two guys who can't handle it as well as they once could.
That said, isn't it amazing that when Rondo plays a stinker of a game, he puts up a near triple double, ties a historic record, and wins the game for his team? This is a measure of how far Rondo has come, and what a great player he is becoming. I think Heinsohn had this in mind when he went after Rondo detractors last night:
It was funny to watch Heinsohn put Gary Tanguay on the spot about this, and to watch Tanguay try to play it off like he always loved and supported Rondo. BullSnitch. Tanguay has been one of the most enthusiastic perveyors - "propagators", as Heinsohn put it - of the attacks on Rondo and the streak, it seems to me. But the main target of Heinsohn's ire was probably Bob Ryan, and Ryan struck back, it seemed:
Ryan declared angrily that Rondo's streak is a fabricated landmark, and that he can't wait for it to be over. !!!!! Heinsohn said that a lot of people said years ago that Rondo would never amount to anything, and they continue to pick at him (one might presume) because they don't want to admit to being wrong. I wonder if Ryan is one of the people Heinsohn was talking about? I don't know what his first reaction to Rondo was, but judging by the near hatred he seems to have for Rondo now, it must have been pretty negative. Ryan almost seems to sputter and spit as he talks about Rondo.
And this case Ryan is making that Rondo's streak isn't a real landmark is such baloney, and he has to know it. All statistical landmarks are inherently artificial. All of them are. The ones that come to be important to us become so because they seem to represent something that is hard to put into words. In fact, the most powerful statistical landmarks, I would argue, are precisely the ones that didn't seem meaningful until some great player or team made them meaningful. Look at Babe Ruth's homerun record. It was Babe Ruth who made the home run a key part of baseball, and it was Ruth who made the career slam record seem important, and we still think of it as the measure of his greatness, not of Hank Aaron's greatness. Every record is eventually broken. What stands forever is the legend of the person who made that record seem important.
Still, Ryan has a point if he means to say that the next step for Rondo may be achieving a level of understanding of the game, and confidence in the game, where he no longer is distracted by the numbers. I have confidence that he'll get there. I hope he learned a lesson last night. Twice last night Rondo got distracted by his pursuit of personal numbers and almost lost us the game, it seems to me. It's all a matter of balance. Keep it all in balance, Rondo.