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Rondology: Ray Allen's Lament

Posted by paul on September 20, 2012 at 5:10 AM

At Celtics Blog, there were some extensive comments about Ray Allen yesterday, by one of CB's most prominent commenting members.  The meme on offer seemed to be that intelligent, knowledgable, adult basketball fans understand that Ray Allen is a truly great player, the consummate professional, whose role in the Celtics offense should not be questioned because he didn't just run those endless patterns to get shots for himself.  He also drew the defense which freed up his teammates for shots.  

In particular, we are urged not to call Allen a diva;  no one seems to object to that label being applied to Rondo, interestingly.

Isn't it interesting the way some folks offer up basic basketball stuff as high level insight?  OF COURSE building the offense around Ray Allen meant that Allen opened up opportunities for other players.  That's how it always works.  Even the most selfish offensive players draw the defense and thus open things up for other players, and that's how it has to work.  For every team.  That's basic basketball.  That's playground level basketball even.  The point about Allen is that he seems to have been the veteran player who was most resistant to the offense shifting away from him and towards Rondo, and that this shift was something that increasingly had to happen if the Celtics were to evolve as a team.  Allen clearly liked being the centerpiece, and who can blame him?   But his removal to The Heat is a clear admission by him that he knows he no longer can effectively play that role.  He knows that he no longer can be the guy that the offense is built around.  He even knows that he no longer should really be a starter.  By moving to the Heat, Ray basically acknowledged that his critics were right.

He still wanted to stick it to Doc, and Danny, and Rondo for being right, even after Danny all but apologized for almost trading Allen.  How is that not being a diva?  It's like an opera star throwing a fit about being demoted to the chorus, and then just to rub it in, signing on with a rival opera company ... to be in the chorus!  Diva diva diva.

Really, there is nothing wrong with being a diva.  Or divo.  KG is one.  Pierce is one.  Rondo is  a HUGE diva, or divo, or whatever.  It's no secret that Rondo has as big a nose for the spotlight as anyone.   What we love about Rondo, it seems to me, is that he seems determined to get into the spotlight his own way, on his own terms, based on talent.  Even in the summer of the Lockout, the summer of the nauseatingly endless series of exhibition games, where we got to see 'highlights' of Lebron and others 'throwing down' over and over and over again, it was Rajon Rondo who seized the moment, and the basketball public's attention, by giving us something we actually hadn't see before, like a crazy no look thirty foot alley-oop pass.  It was like Rondo was saying to Lebron, 'look, if we really are going to do this thing in Globetrotter style, let's really do it Globetrotter style'.  They say Rondo doesn't study basketball history, but I don't believe it.  I think he knows basketball history better than anyone.  I'll bet that if you went into his home, you'd see the best collection of historic basketball film anywhere.  

You can tell from the way Rondo plays that he is a student of the game.

Allen seemed to see Rondo as all flash in the pan, and no substance.  If Rondo was Mozart, Allen was Salierie, as portrayed in the movie Amadeus.  Rondo threw Allen some of the most beautiful passes in NBA history, passes that will be featured in highlight films decades from now, long after Ray Allen has become a basketball footnote, but Allen seemed to resent even this.   On leaving Boston, he could not speak the name of the man who had assisted many of Allen's record-breaking threes.  

Was this the behavior of a consummate professional?  No, it certainly wasn't.

Reportedly, Allen apologized to Chris Paul for Rondo's behavior, when Rondo taunted Paul after a game.  Was this the behavior of a solid teammate?  Or was it the kind of stab-in-the-back behavior that seems to have also played out as damaging 'anonymous' leaks and comments to friendly media types?  

We may be tired of hearing about Ray Allen, but his removal from the Celtics, the antipathy between him and Rondo, and the growing rivalry between the Celtics and Heat will surely, inevitably, be one of the main themes of the 2012-2013 season.   It's a story that has deeper roots in contrasting styles, opposite ways of doing things, even different approaches to life.   Simply put, Allen is one who plays by the rules, and Rondo is one who rewrites the rules.  Allen's way is the way of skill.  Rondo's way is the way of creativity.  Together they were actually quite brilliant.  But in the end, Allen couldn't see it.

He's not been alone in that.  Fans and media have been slow to see the talent gestating in Rondo.  As much as folks want to be dazzled by what they haven't seen before, they tend to prefer the comfort of ritual, of routine, and above all, no one likes a smarty.   Many folks resent it when they see a mind at work that hasn't bowed down to authority, that still seeks to find its own path.  Watching a Lebron comforts many fans and media.   They tell themselves that of course they did not accomplish their own dreams in life, because they didn't have the kind of physical advantages a Lebron has.   Like Salieri, as portrayed in Amadeus, they had to accept mediocrity.   Who can blame them if they admire a Ray Allen uncritically?   He is one of them.  He is their hero.

What are folks to think when they see Rondo accomplishing amazing things, and refusing to give up on his dreams?   He's no giant amongst men, like Lebron.   He has some unusual physical talents, for sure, but he's no physical superman.  He's not too different from you and me, yet there is he is, accomplishing amazing things.  Rondo challenges us to pick up our dreams again.  Those of us who have the courage to do so, respond enthusiastically to him.   Those who don't resent him.  In time they'll come around.  All they need to do is remember a dream and pick it up.  Then they'll see Rondo in a new light.  They'll appreciate him more.

But as much as I appreciate Rondo, I don't mind being a broken record about things I think are important.  It all starts with defense this season.  To run, we need the ball.  To get the ball, we need to choke other teams on defense.  To do that, we need Rondo to raise his defensive game this year the way he has raised his offensive game in recent years.  I don't have any doubt that he will do exactly that.  This team is built to go after teams on defense, and then take advantage of that on offense.   

A very special season lies ahead for the NBA, and for Celtics fans, and it begins with Rondo.

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Reply Morena
08:31 AM on September 20, 2012 
"Simply put, Allen is one who plays by the rules, and Rondo is one who rewrites the rules"
This is the best summery of this good piece!!
I like people that rewrites the rules, they are the one that make life interesting!!

I agree with you when you say that rondo is no giant amongst men because he is not physical superman, but he has a great natural gift: his mind. He is incredibly smart and he can really see things before they actually happen. And the more I watch him, the more I can see his brilliant mind at work.
Reply paul
09:06 AM on September 20, 2012 
What impresses me so much, Morena, is Rondo's gift for physical comedy. I see that as one of the signs of a truly special talent.
Reply Franklin
02:27 PM on September 20, 2012 
Love the idea of Rondo writing his own rules. That's what great players do all the time.
Reply Aaron
02:30 PM on September 20, 2012 
I like the part where u talk about routine. People don't like different,or art. They want pop culture. Rondo is becoming a figure bigger than pop culture.
Reply paul
02:56 PM on September 20, 2012 
Aaron says...
I like the part where u talk about routine. People don't like different,or art. They want pop culture. Rondo is becoming a figure bigger than pop culture.

I love what you are saying about pop culture, Aaron. On one hand, when you are talking about Red Bull, GQ, rap lyrics, kicks, etc., you ARE talking about pop culture. But Rondo seems to be someone who raises pop culture to the level of art. The best ones do that I think.
Reply paul
02:57 PM on September 20, 2012 
Franklin says...
Love the idea of Rondo writing his own rules. That's what great players do all the time.

The way I see it, that's how the game evolves. When this next season is over, the game will be different. Rondo and the Celtics will have changed it.