|Posted by paul on August 13, 2012 at 6:45 AM|
I think Avery Bradley gave us the best insight into the relationship between Allen and Rondo that anyone has given.
Bradley called Ray "a great tutor," even after student surpassed student:
"He would tell me, going back to being consistent, he would tell me to shoot the same shot -- that my jump shot should be like my 3-pointer, and that's what I focused on every time I would shoot before or after practice," Bradley said. "It was funny, when I wouldn't do it, he would always get up and say something to me. Like, 'That's not how you shoot jumpers.' He would always call me out."
Of course Bradley is talking about his relationship with Allen, not Rondo's relationship with Allen, but one has to suppose that Allen's dealings with Rondo were similar. How responsive would Rondo be to this kind of 'teaching'?
One of the reasons I love Rondo is that I see him as a player who really appreciates creativity, spontaneity and the unexpected. Rondo is someone who loves hitting a crazy fallaway shot from a randomly chosen spot on the floor over two flying Bigs. Ray Allen is a guy who likes his spots, likes his screens, likes his perfect timing, wants to achieve the same form, same result, every every time. You could hardly have two more opposite players. What's striking is how well these two guys seemed to bring out the best in each other at times. Some of the most unforgettable plays we have ever seen were Rondo to Allen plays.
When I look back on basketball history, there's one thing I don't particularly like about Larry Bird. Up until Bird, people didn't think that there was only one way to shoot a basketball. Since Bird, it's been taken for granted that there is one way to shoot, and everyone needs to shoot that one way every time if they want to be a shooter, and the whole point of practice is to shoot the exact same way every time, schooling one's body. As much as I appreciate that approach to shooting, I've never been happy with the way it took over. It's too rote. It contradicts the essential nature of basketball, which in my view has everything to do with flow, spontaneity and creativity. Nowadays every youngster has rote shooting drilled into them.
In my basketball days, I loved studying the way other people shot the basketball, and I loved the fact that everyone had something slightly different about the way they did it, and I loved the challenge of trying to find my own peculiar way. I never tried to shoot the ball exactly the same way twice. In fact, I loved the challenge of trying to release the ball in different ways, if only to be less predictable. I was convinced that the key to shooting a basketball was intention. Intention is the key to everything in life. When we fail to do something, it's usually because we weren't really trying to do that thing. Rote shooting tries to bypass the issue of intentionality by establishing engrained habits. It's a good technique, but I really liked the challenge of trying to sort through what I was really trying to do each time I shot the ball.
It's such an interesting process. Everytime one asks oneself, 'what am I really trying to do right now', it raises up a thicketed maze of existential issues and anxieties. What is one really trying to do, to accomplish, at any moment in life? What is one's true authentic wish at any single moment? I loved missing shots, as frustrating as it was to miss, because it gave me a chance to think about what tricks my mind would play. Often I felt it had to do with the way I imagined space. See, it's incredibly hard to focus one's on an empty space, which is what a basketball goal is. One's mind almost rebels at gazing into the emptiness, even for a fraction of a second. It's much easier to focus on the rim, and that's pretty much why so many shots at the basket clang out; the shooter is really aiming at the rim, not at the empty space contained within the rim.
Shooting is a fascinating art. I can appreciate the way Allen approaches it, and the particular zen he finds in his endless search for perfection, where perfection means doing it the same way every time. I appreciate Rondo's approach even more. His opponents never quite know what he will do, because he never quite knows. He shoots more crazy shots that somehow go in than Kobe does! Sometimes it's like he can 'see' a multidimensional gravity that will pull his crazy basketball off the top of the backboard and roll it down into the basket. Other times, he can't knock down a layup.
Incredibly, and wonderfully, Allen's and Rondo's opposite zens would find a way to mesh together. I don't think Allen quite appreciated how special that was. Allen felt unappreciated, but did he appreciate what he had, what he walked away from? I think something deep inside Allen was involved, some bitterness that goes far beyond Rajon Rondo, and Danny Ainge, and even basketball. In the end, he just couldn't get over the sheer difference between him and Rondo, even their different mentalities could come together so incredibly beautifully at times.