Appreciating Rondo

For reasons that are at best irrational and at worst downright stupid, I don’t like Rajon Rondo.  He plays for a team I root against, he once trash-talked Chris Paul for not having any rings, and he is, by my estimation, an overrated player who probably didn’t belong on the All-NBA team.  I dislike Rondo.

But as much (sports) hate as I have for him, I can’t help but appreciate a move that Rondo frequently uses; one that I’ve always admired and even tried at times when my coach wasn’t in the gym.  The move, as you probably gathered from the video clip, is the fake behind-the-back pass.  By my estimation, Rondo is the only current NBA player using it.  Whether it’s a 2 on 1 fast break, or a broken halfcourt defense with a single defender under the hoop, Rajon will dramatically rotate his upper body while winging the ball way behind his back, sending the defender’s eyes searching for a nearby Celtic.  With his opponent now missing in action, Rondo lays the ball in for an easy two.

I first saw this move performed by Minnesota’s Finest, Khalid El-Amin, at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Arena in an early-round state tournament game.  The crowd ooh’d and ahh’d as Khalid gave us an MJ-like shoulder shrug.  That was enough for me to take things to the driveway and learn this one for myself.  There are two ways to execute it.  There’s the Jason “White Chocolate” Williams method, where you actually cup the ball and make more of a pure pass fake.  That requires less (or no) body rotation but risks letting the ball slip due to sweaty palms, small hands, or just an accident.  Rondo’s method is less risky, which is why he is able to use it so often.  He turns with the ball, using some concepts of physics that I can’t explain that keep the ball in control while still making a credible pass fake.

While this aging Boston team struggles to score points and produce highlights, the kids inside each of us that enjoy a good highlight can rest assured, knowing that Rajon Rondo will do what he can to entertain while amassing triple doubles and leading his team to playoff wins.  Even if I don’t like or cheer for Rajon Rondo, I certainly appreciate a good showman.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Appreciating Rondo

  1. Come on Andy, Rondo is one of those guards that can neutralize the advantage of a better team. The Celtics have a long history of such guards – perhaps the best was Tiny Achibald who repeatedly demolished the defenses the a stronger Philadelphia team (Dr. J and Co.) during playoffs. Rondo has done the same for the Celtics in recent years. Both Achibald and Rondo might have been “showman” when young, but turned into “neutralizers” with age.
    Eric G.

    • Eric,
      Rondo is very good and you make a good point about his ability to neutralize a strong opponent. I mostly just cheer against him–I recognize he is a great player for the most part, but sometimes his woeful shooting allows bad teams to hang with the Celtics. He is an unbelievable ball-handler though, which opens up a lot of passing lanes that wouldn’t otherwise be there. He is similar to Ricky Rubio in some ways.

      Archibald was before my time, but I understand he was pretty great in his prime. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought I’ve read somewhere that he’s the only player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season.

      • Anonymous

        Andy,

        Another thing I like about Rondo is that he actually does very little of the fancy stuff that drew your attention and admiration – that is, that fake back pass shown on your video. Because of his speed and basic skills, he usually gets the job done via conventional methods.

        To me, the game of basketball comes down to one thing – did your team score on that possession or did it not. As far as I know, there are no points given yet simply for style. Why did I like to watch another Celtic great, Larry Bird, play? It was because points were awarded only if the ball passed though the hoop. If I want to watch a human art form, I would buy tickets to the ballet.

        Andy, I probably am the product of era now gone – which I did love. Nevertheless, the things I wish we had back in the 60’s that you have today are the 3-point line and the 24-second clock – in order to widen the effective playing field and increase the pace of play.

        Eric G.

        • Eric,
          When watching my beloved Timberwolves I’m a lot more concerned with the substance than the style, but I enjoy all of the different ways that make players like Rondo great, including the ones that most college or high school players wouldn’t even dare attempt. Larry Bird, to use your example, wasn’t immune to seeking the less-conventional methods to success. The story goes that he was bored during a regular season game against Portland and told his teammates he would only use his left hand. He scored 47 points, many of them left-handed. Not high-flying dunks, but certainly showing off. Bird also was known as one of the better trash talkers of all time, and would slap his opponent on the rear after knocking down a jumper from the corner.

          Getting back to Rondo, he’s playing a brilliant game tonight against the Heat. I hope he wins the game and series, as I’d like to see Miami go down.
          -Andy

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