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Couldn't let this ground go cold without saying one more thing about Rondo. Here's Kevin Pelton on Double R's Game 5, and how it compares to the Wilt/Oscar Night:

. In some ways, Rondo's controlled Game Five performance was as much a sign of maturity as his takeover of Game Four. He picked his spots, deferring to his teammates early and finding the perfect time to exert his will on the game. Rondo and Allen were both highly efficient, combining for 41 points on 27 shooting possessions.

That's a chunk from a paragraph, and as Kevin noted during the game, Rondo's plus/minus indicated that a surprising amount of the Celtics' assault came with him on the bench. However, I would like to compare this to something I wrote here back in March of 2007:

Rondo is like a thousand angry voices in one. This isn't a Kidd-like all-around consistency; I don't think anyone's projecting him as a consistent triple-double threat. Rondo's box scores read like a decent all-around player who relies on demonic possession to excel at any particular one. It's tempting to call these outbursts situational, but the overall pattern is one of provocative randomness. When the unpredictability becomes a predictable feature, you throw up your arms and run toward the light.

Wow, things were so much different then. Whatever, if you're crying for the past right now, read that Suns thing I did for today. It's both closer in tone to 2007 and about why change must come. But enough about me. I remember that, when I posted that thing on Rondo, someone laughed it off as a function of the C's ragged, insistent play. Also probably something about Rondo trying to do everything at once because there was no structure to suggest otherwise.

But looking back, those rookie lines seem like evidence not of skills, but of a single skill—the exact one Kevin describes above. Rondo falls back when he needs to, and asserts himself however the team needs him to. That can lead to all-out domination, or game-management, or some odd combination of the two. It's an advanced, aggressive version of the point guard instinct that somehow registers less impressively, and consistently, than master craftsmen like, say, Stockton or Steve Nash.

Rondo might well be a new kind of pure point guard, one marked not by his ability to set the terms but to adapt and adjust within the game situation. That may also be his greatest strength and his ultimate weakness, since you have to wonder how this strange skill fares once you take away support (note the word choice) from the likes of Garnett and Allen.

Update: Suns link is repaired.

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At 5/12/2010 1:06 PM, Blogger Dylan Murphy said...

I would completely agree, except for the whole lack of a jump shot thing, which will always limit his ceiling. He'll never truly be able to take over a game until he can hit a shot from more than 8 feet away.

At 5/12/2010 2:35 PM, Blogger MookieDC said...

The least talked about improvement in Rondo's game in these playoffs is the fact that he IS making jump shots. He'll (probably) never be Rose, Williams, Paul, etc., but guys ranging from Tony Parker to Amare Stoudemire significantly bettered their shooting touch after a few years in the league. Why shouldn't we believe Rondo can (be) do(ing) the same?

At 5/12/2010 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He'll never truly be able to take over a game until he can hit a shot from more than 8 feet away."

Sir you are wrong. I think your statement is an oversimplification and that RR has demonstarted throughout his career his capacity to take over a game....without scoring at al in some cases.

As I see it Rondo is channelling the demon and this indeed is scary and so fun!

At 5/12/2010 2:52 PM, Blogger MookieDC said...

I've been a huge Rondo fan since his rookie year but I can't help but wonder about that last sentence all the time. Additionally, The Cavs strategy in guarding Rondo is showing us why the prevent defense is just as ineffective in basketball as it is in football. You can't let a quarterback operate with nobody putting pressure on him; it might be worse in basketball with someone like Rondo, who by nature of sport/position does more than just passing.

At 5/12/2010 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The TRUE key to Rondo's excellence is if he ever gets the ability to finish in traffic. Granted, he can knock down a quirky layup and awkward looking floater every now and then already; but he has shown the tendency to shy away from taking shots against the big time shot blockers (see: Dwight Howard).

Rondo is a great dribbler, a great passer, and an even better penetrator. Most times, however, his penetration is counter-productive, as he gets into the paint and always looks to 'pass first'.

The Celtics offense is set so that his distributor gene is exemplified; with 3 outside shooters (KG, Truth, Ray) and no inside presence (Perk?, Davis?...exactly), he is given incredible space to work his magic and get into the teeth of the defense. Once he gets there, his ability to read-and-react against the help defenders is what makes him special.

...I just wish he could have more confidence in his ability to finish in the paint; it seems that he ALWAYS wants to pass, in an effort to stay away from getting fouled (and worry about missing Free Throws).

---C's in 6. Mike Brown is a terrible coach.

At 5/12/2010 3:16 PM, Blogger MookieDC said...

I agree with that as well, but similar to his newfound improved shooting touch, he also seems to be more aggressive and effective as a finisher. It could easily be an aberration, but it could also be a sign of more to come.

I'm just excited to see Rondo showing signs of becoming a true elite PG, from the Tasmanian devil he's been.

At 5/13/2010 4:41 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5/13/2010 4:48 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

I always feel like a sucker when my attention is drawn to the logic of your arguments rather than the poetic insight but does this post work at all? You're saying Rondo's stat lines from his rookie year when the Celtics were losing games by the bunches were products of him adapting to game situations and figuring out that extra rebounding or hawking the passing lanes for steals was what the team needed to still lose by 15?

I realize your argument comes to fruition in the final paragraph with who Rondo is as a point, but it seems like you could have found a better way to arrive there. Rondo's rookie Celts needed his everything even more than the game 4 Celts, Rondo just didn't have it all yet.

Maybe those early unstructured days allowed Rondo to see what he can do on the court and prepared him to apply those skills now that he has talent around him. And if anyone, his game the other day reminded me of Jordan. Specifically a game during champ year 6 (or maybe 5?) when Rodman had just gone down with an injury and Mike stepped up to grab double digit rebounds. Which makes me wonder if setting the terms and adapting to team needs are even oppositional. If you're grabbing extra offensive boards at the point you're setting the terms by limiting the negative value of a missed shot and deciding that you the point demand the possession continues.

Adapting to team needs seems like more of a versatile role player's task. Rondo always sets the terms because he's the Celtics' best player. When he deferred to his teammates in Game 5 it was because the Cleveland defense had turned it's focus toward him and changed what was opportunities were available from game 4 to game 5. And if the opposing defense hinges on your game, you're setting the terms.

At 5/13/2010 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rondo struggled as a rookie and as a sophomore to finish at the rim and consistantly control the tempo of the game. I believe that this manifested itself into a lack of trust by both Doc and the vets....not too mention his more successful than but strangly similiar to Ricky Davis like style of gambling on defense.

Now then, for those who have been watching his development, it is his ability to finish at the rim particularly and control the game through his skill set, regardless of this jumper business, that has helped him become an all star.

What has been consistent is his freakish athleticism and his desire to not only win, but kick some serious ass doing it.

It is impossible for me to think about Rondo without thinking about the style of his hero Brett Favre (invoking american football makes me a bit sick to my stomach).

And what about this business of being southern. That seems to infect his play in some way that I can't figure out...I just know it is there.

Maybe it is that almost polite-fuck you style he rolls with.

At 5/13/2010 10:04 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I didn't say adapting to his team, I said adapting to a particular situation or game. You're right, though, doing this while losing—and maybe doing so almost accidentally—is different than doing it in the playoffs. Maybe your "learning" suggestion helps bridge the gap.


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