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"IN RONDO WE TRUST"

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Rondology: A Tale of Two Streaks

Posted by paul on November 14, 2012 at 6:30 AM


It was interesting to notice at Celtics Blog today that at least some of the resident Wise Ones there continue to claim that not only is Chris Paul still clearly better than Rajon Rondo, but that is is - to judge by their tone - a 'no-brainer'.   Wnat is also interesting is that this is invariably decided, by such sages,  on the basis of statistical comparisons, often (but not always) involving 'advanced stats'.  There is little or no attempt to actually describe and compare the play of these two fine athletes.  One just cites numbers.


It's refreshing to see that the ancient art and worship of numerology has not been lost to humanity.  Notable sages continue to swear by it. 


I wonder, though, if those same sages would be the first to excoriate Rondo for the OCD obession with stats that he is reputed to have?  Marc D'amico repeatedly  called him out for this at Celtics.com during the game against Chicago the other night.  It was all done in good humor, of course.  All in good fun.   Yes, Marc, I'm sure your beloved Paul Pierce - that  "professional scorer" - never checks his stats, even though you can hardly earn the soubriquet of "professional scorer" without some hefty stats...


What all this points to is the sheer stupidity and rank hypocrisy that permeates the sports world.  We all love stats, of course, but the way most 'knowledgeable' folks who discuss sports substitute stats for actual thinking is pure stupidity, and the way they excoriate players for obsessing over stats, when they themselves wallow in them, stinks with hypocrisy.  It's a bit like fans of various pop divas arguing over which one of them can hit the highest note. I'd say that Amy Winehouse outsang them all, and she couldn't hit a high note to save her life.  All she did was study the history of singing and out of this develope an intensely personal way of singing that came from the heart.


Rajon Rondo claims that he has no knowledge of NBA history, and precious little interest in it.  Ok, well, maybe so.  I don't believe it though.  I predict that some day Rondo will acknowledge that he pores over those old tapes of Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, etc., more zealously than Amy Winehouse listened to old recordings of Dinah Washington.   When one watches Rondo play, one feels as though one is seeing flashes of other great point guards.  He is like a cubist painting of a point guard (a point Flannery pointed to recently), in which glimpses of many other great point guards can be seen.  He is a kalaidioscope of point guards.   And now, for the first time in his  career, he has taken his place at the head of the pack.    Rondo stands alone in NBA history as the player who recorded the most games in a row with more than ten assists.   More than John Stockton.  More than Tiny Archibald.  More than Gary Payton.  More than Magic Johnson.  More than Bob Cousy.  What a thrilling moment for Celtics fans and Rondo fans!!!


Except, of course, for the smart fans.   After all, they go for the smart statistics, not the dumb ones.


!!!!


It's pretty obvious that Rondo gets a kick out of keeping his streak alive.   I have no problem with that.  I think it's perfectly obvious that he's using this as one way to keep himself performing at a high level consistently.  This is precisely one of the things that his haters demanded that he do, but they always seem to be able to come up with new damning criticisms for Rondo.   I'm sure we will be hearing more and more and more about how terrible his obsession with statistics is.  What's funny, though, is that Rondo's teammates seem to get a kick out of Rondo's streak of games with double digit assists.  I think they realize that there is a pretty strong correlation between Rondo performing at the high level that yeilds such statistics, and the team's chances for success this season.


I love Rondo's assist streak.  Now that he has broken the record for the most games in a row with more than ten assists, I am very excited about his chase for the record of most games in a row with double digit assists.   Stockton is ahead of him with 37, and Johnson is a bit further ahead with 46, or so.    The whole thing is quite exciting!   


But the streak I care more about is the one Rondo just started.   For two games in a row now, Rondo has held the opposing point guard down defensively, without sacrificing his own offensive role.   What's more, the two guards that Rondo has 'owned' recently are not weak ones.  Brandon Jennings has had a hot start this year, and Nate Robinson is no pushover, despite media put-downs.   If Rondo can keep both streaks going - the assist streak and the defensive streak - I think we can look forward to a lot of Celtics wins.  


Of course, these streaks are both team accomplishments.   One of the reasons I love Rondo's record for the most games in a row with more than ten assists is that it is such a perfect Celtics record.   Most basketball 'sages' measure the greatness of a player by how far he or she stands out.   But that's not the Celtics way.   Celtics players are like those actors who make you forget that they are actors at all.   They become the role they are playing.  The best ones not only do this, but they somehow are able to make all the actors around them better, bringing them all into a world.   These are abilities that cannot be measured.   You sense that this great artistic achievement is happening, but you cannot quantify it.  Can you measure the greatness of an actor, or a player, by how great the actors around him or her are?   It's a judgement  call.  One has to use one's critical thinking, one's discernment, one's sensibility, even.


One of my favorite actors is Keanu Reeves.  I know it's not hip to like him.  I know it's not smart to like him.  Poor Keanu has been a laughing stock for years because he doesn't look or behave like a 'real' actor.  But when you look back on his career, his ability to 'become' his characters has created some of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema.  


Keanu's greatest movie was probably The Matrix.   Critics of his supposed air-headedness will claim that he barely acted in the movie, and that he was lucky to be surrounded by great actors who carried all the weight, actors like Lawrence Fishburn and Hugo Weaving.   This is like the claim that Bill Russell was great because he was surrounded by great players.  Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that Tommy Heinsohn would be so well remembered today, had he not played with Russell?  Does anyone seriously think that Fishburn's brilliant performance as Morpheus would be so well remembered had he not played opposite Keanu's Neo?   


Rondo's assist streak may be the closest we can get to the essence of what it is to be a Celtic.   It is about unselfishness.  It is about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.    It's about KG and Paul Pierce giving Rondo maturity, while he gives them a sharp edge even as they age.   It's about Rondo drawing three defenders to him in the deciding play against the Bulls, while the seven foot tall KG manages to make himself invisible on the court, as he positions himself at the rim for Rondo's alley oop, and then Brandon Bass doing the same thing seconds later.  This is the stuff of basketball magic, even if it doesn't have as much KAPOW!!  as Lebron James thundering to the basket, or 'blocking' someone while he knocks them out of bounds....   How does one extricate the achievement of Rondo in that play, drawing three defenders to him in a kind of panic, from the achievement of KG, hiding all seven feet of himself somehow right in the middle of the lane?  Does that play become less of a feet because of the way two players blended their uncanny skilz?  Or does it seem greater because of that?  To me it seems greater.


But the greatest team accomplishment is defense, and here Rondo's defensive streak is telling, as a key not only to his own game, but to the Celtics defense as a whole.   The way the Celtics swarm the ballhandler on the pick and roll, and the way they rotate, is critical to their ability  to contain opposing point guards, but it all depends on the effort Rondo puts into chasing after and attacking his opposite number defensively.     It's a lot to ask from Rondo, that he keep both streaks going, as Tiny Archibald's and Cousy's comments  suggest ...

one ability that makes Rondo truly rare is what he accomplishes at both ends of the floor. It’s a tough way for a player to prosper, according to Cousy.

“Point guards are not associated with stopper defense or rebounding,” said Cousy. “The point guard mentality is to come up with the best offense. Arnold (Red Auerbach) always had me defend the weaker of the two guards because he didn’t want me worrying about that. He wanted me running the ball down their throats.

...

Archibald even applied a new twist on an old basketball phrase.

“He’s what I call a combo guard, but not because of scoring,” said Archibald. “He’s a combo guard because he also defends. He’s unique. He’s on (a) pedestal, as far as I’m concerned. … He plays 90 feet - both ways.”

 As exciting as Rondo's streak of games with ten or more assists is, I think his new streak of two games putting defensive clamps on the opposing point guard is even more exciting, however unheralded.  I can't wait to see if he keeps both going tonight!

------------------------------------------------------

Speaking of verbal description, Jay King does a nice job describing the play that won the game for the Cs against the Bulls:

One might wonder how the Bulls could ever allow Garnett an alley-oop late in the game. Obviously, they must have known the Celtics love the Rondo-to-Garnett lob. Obviously, they must have scouted it. Obviously, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had prepared his players to stop that set. But on the play that might have been the game's biggest, which resulted in a Garnett dunk to give Boston a 97-93 lead with 0:41 left, Rivers used a wrinkle to the set.

Garnett set a down screen for Pierce, which was disguised as a pindown. Except instead of curling for a jumper, Pierce went straight to Rondo's man to set a pick. Garnett followed Pierce, so Rondo dribbled around both of them as staggered ball screens. The defense was so thoroughly confused by the fake pindown and the resulting staggered screens that it allowed Garnett to slip to the hoop for the jam, despite knowing the Celtics love that play.








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6 Comments

Reply Franklin
10:22 AM on November 14, 2012 
Their seems to be a divide between blogs about how they feel about Rondo. I come here because I believe u guys are fair. This streak has become a monster,and its the best thing that could happen for Rondo. He's not fluffing his stats,he's being himself. When did he ever cost the Celtics a game when going for triple-double like stats. He doesn't very often. Good matrix refrence.
Reply Henry
10:23 AM on November 14, 2012 
His defense helps the streak. Steal or tip the ball,and get a fastbreak assist Rondo.
Reply paul
10:47 AM on November 14, 2012 
Henry says...
His defense helps the streak. Steal or tip the ball,and get a fastbreak assist Rondo.



Defense feeds offense. No one knows this better than Rondo. He gets so many deflections too. No stat for that.
Reply paul
10:59 AM on November 14, 2012 
Franklin says...
Their seems to be a divide between blogs about how they feel about Rondo. I come here because I believe u guys are fair. This streak has become a monster,and its the best thing that could happen for Rondo. He's not fluffing his stats,he's being himself. When did he ever cost the Celtics a game when going for triple-double like stats. He doesn't very often. Good matrix refrence.


Franklin, we love Rondo, but we aren't afraid to criticize him. If he continues this defensive streak, I wonder how any of his haters will be able to resist jumping on the bandwagon. I think his teammates have already begun to respond. They see the effort and that in turn triggers their own effort. That's what team ball is all about.

He may get that Trip Dub tonight. Calderone got a huge one last night. I'm sure Rondo is aware of that!!
Reply celts
3:24 PM on November 14, 2012 
i love how you pointed out that nows hes consistently great basically every night that now people are left with hes focused on stats too much and all i can do is laugh im sure the streak is nice for his ego and all, but tbh i think he cares more about getting wins and hell the team and the coach like it when he extends the streak so its not just him looking to extend it although thats the problem with streaks in sports once you get a huge going people start assume thats all you care about and now something like assists which is an unselfish stat is being used against rondo to call him selfish lol.
Reply paul
3:49 PM on November 14, 2012 
celts says...
i love how you pointed out that nows hes consistently great basically every night that now people are left with hes focused on stats too much and all i can do is laugh im sure the streak is nice for his ego and all, but tbh i think he cares more about getting wins and hell the team and the coach like it when he extends the streak so its not just him looking to extend it although thats the problem with streaks in sports once you get a huge going people start assume thats all you care about and now something like assists which is an unselfish stat is being used against rondo to call him selfish lol.


It really is funny, isn't it? Has there ever been a player who steadily improved the way Rondo has done? It's so much fun every year to see how much better Rondo will be, and so much fun to watch the haters shift their ground...!!