The Enigma That is Rajon Rondo

Enigma- a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence, or situation.

Much like the rest of the NBA over the past 3 seasons, I have been trying to figure out Rajon Rondo, although for entirely different reasons.  Coaches and players around the league have been trying to figure out how to stop him.  Do you sag off of him and force him to shoot 12 foot jumpers all game?  Do you play him straight up and pray you don’t get burned when he drives to the basket? How in the world do you stop Rajon Rondo?

I, on the other hand, have been wondering if Rondo is a product of the other players on the court, or if the other players on the court are successful because of him.  After the summer of 2007 when the Celtics made the biggest moves in recent franchise history acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, much was made about how a second year point guard would be able to handle playing with 3 hall of famers in the last years of their prime.  In their very first season together the Celtics won the NBA Championship in 6 games against Kobe Bryant and Lakers. In that series Rondo averaged 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists a game.  The line is rather pedestrian.

The next two seasons the Celtics would lose to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals (sans Kevin Garnett) and the year after that they would lose to the Lakers in Game 7 (sans Kendrick Perkins) of the 2010 NBA Finals.  In both those playoff runs Rondo was outstanding.  In 2009 he averaged 17 points per game, 9 rebounds a game, and 9 assists a game.  In 2010, he averaged 16, 9, and 5. There is no doubt the man is a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire.

Moving to present day Rondo has the led the Celtics to a 30-9 record, good for the number spot in the Eastern Conference.  What really had me start thinking about what makes Rondo so successful was the night he had against the team with the best record in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.  12, 22, 10, and 6.  No that’s not last night’s winning lottery number.  That was Rondo’s line as he was just 4 steals short of a quadruple-double.

While he was off the charts amazing that night, I felt that Ray Allen was even more spectacular, despite pulling a Rondo in the final seconds missing 2 free throws.  Most of Ray’s shots didn’t even touch the rim.  Allen looked a like he was playing NBA JAM. In fact a look deeper into that box score shows the Celtics shot 61% from the field.  Pierce was 7-10 from the floor, Big Baby 10-18, and Ray 13-16.  Without his teammates having the ability to shoot the way they do, Rondo doesn’t get his 14 assists a night. Shaq is shooting 68%, Garnett 54%, Allen and Pierce are both at 51%.

The counter point to this is obviously that Rondo is better than FedEx at delivering.  When it absolutely, positively has to get there on time Rondo delivers.  He is right up there with Steve Nash as one of the best pure passers in basketball.  Some of his passes defy logic, but he is able to make them.  He is able to find his teammates at all times.  He knows when Ray is feeling it from the corner, he knows Shaq is camped out underneath the basket, and he knows Pierce is lurking at the top of the key.

Much like the opposition in the NBA, I still can’t figure out Rajon Rondo.  He is an enigma.  I don’t know if he is successful because of the Celtics, or if the Celtics are successful because of him.  It is a classic “Chicken and Egg” argument.  But whatever the answer, it’s sure working out for the Boston Celtics.

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