|Posted by paul on December 30, 2011 at 8:05 AM|
Jarrett Jack is a fine player. Rajon Rondo was an exhausted player on Wednesday night. But it's not like this was the first time we've seen Rajon playing matador defense. Already this season, in just three games, he's been torched three times by his opposing number. Against Jack, he didn't even offer, as counterbalance, a dominating offensive game and a basket of steals. Instead, he seemed to be the perfect gentleman, elegantly framing Jack's moves, pirouettes and drives. He was Fred Astaire.
As art, it was inspiring to watch (I've only seen highlights, admittedly). One could almost imagine feathers descending languidly through the air in Jack's wake, gathered lovingly by the trailing, framing Rondo, perhaps for a scrapbook. One could - all too easily - imagine Rondo moving to Argentina, perhaps, to become the much beloved resident dance star and teacher at a tango club there. People would flock to this club, I believe, to watch, learn from, and even (if they are very bold, and very good) dance with the Master. Every person should do their best to follow their 'bliss', surely, and if ballrooom dancing is Rondo's bliss, I would love to see such a dream come true. I think he could be wonderful. I think he could be a legend.
But ballroom dancing makes a poor defensive strategy in basketball, just as passivity makes a poor offensive strategy. If Rondo's 'bliss' really is basketball, if basketball is the art he truly wishes to master - and I think we can all agree that he could be a legend in basketball too - I think Rondo could do worse than study Larry Bird. As we all remember, Larry, like Rondo, was quite a wanderer on defense. He constantly anticipated what the offense was up to, and he constantly strayed from his man, playing a kind of one-on-five defense. But, even though Bird's only physical talents were size and reflexes, he was a tough one-on-one defender nonetheless, who could not easily be shaken by an opposing player. Rondo, obviously, has a lot more talent to work with (apart from size), yet he is consistently all-to-easy for an offensive player to shake off. When it comes to one-on-one defense, toughness and determination count for a lot. As we saw in the Heat series last spring, in the play where Rondo was injured by Wade, because Wade's inability to beat Rondo with his signature move frustated Wade so much, Rondo can be a matchless one-on-one defender. It's a matter of will, in the end, isn't it?
Rondo seemed to play with so little toughness and determination against NO that one was reminded of the way he tuned in and out last year, only it seemed worse. I hope that his play tells a different story in the week ahead. I hope he returns to the aggressiveness on offense that he showed in the first two games, and adds more toughness and focus on defense.