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Rondology: A Touch of Greatness

Posted by paul on November 7, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Tonight is the night that a lot of Celtics fans, I suspect, are expecting the team - led by the Big Three, and especially Rondo - to step up and put their unique stamp on this season.  We all thought the Miami game was going to be our Gateway to Greatness.  Well, that was a flop.  So was the home-opener.  So was our first win.  But tonight - ah - tonight will be this team's Gateway to Greatness!  Surely.   Tonight will be the night we all look back to as the first time this great team showed who they really were.   Right?

Perhaps in honor of such expectations, Paul Flannery wrote an unusually thoughtful piece about Rondo for today...

Rondo doesn’t have a routine, or at least a consistent one. That’s not to say that he’s unprepared. He watches more video than a football coach, and has an almost savant-like memory for players and their tendencies. But what Rondo offers on a nightly basis is the possibility contained in the unknown. He is the deviant in a league that thrives on ritual and repetition.

... when his own coach says quite seriously that he never looks at the stat sheet when assessing his point guard’s performance, how are we to make sense of his unusual gifts by conventional measures?

“It’s just rhythm for him. It’s not tempo. It’s not even a pace. I can’t explain what it is.” —Doc Rivers, last May.


Every time I go to the Garden, I think to myself, “What will Rondo do tonight that I haven’t seen before?”

It might be a pass, or a fake, or a fake that leads to a pass. It might be an angle off the glass that is so utterly unreasonable as to completely contradict every principle of Euclidean geometry. This is a player whose go-to move at the basket is a goofy-foot layup with the wrong hand. It’s not that he does things abnormally, it’s that normal has no real frame of reference for Rondo.

I’ve been trying for nearly half a decade to get inside his head and see the game through his eyes, but each attempt has been foiled by that familiar, icy, deadpan stare. He made a pass once through three defenders to a spot on the floor that was completely empty but at the last second landed safely in Paul Pierce’s hands for a layup. “It looked like there was no one there,” I said to him after the game, and he responded, “Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.”

It finally hit me, after all these years, that I’ve been looking at it wrong. It’s not what he does, but how he does it that is so mesmerizing. Rondo, it seems to me, is the NBA’s resident cubist. Using the rectangular dimensions of the court as his canvas, he takes everything we know about patterns, shapes, and space and bastardizes them in a distorted image that is as disorienting as it is inspiring.


When confronted with a true original, we are woefully unequipped to understand him on the usual terms. As he enters his seventh season at age 26, Rondo should be at the point in his career where his game is familiar and understood. Instead, he’s still doing things that are varied and weird. Yet he has raised the stakes, thanks to his otherworldly playoff performance. Some are going so far as to predict an MVP season in 2012-13. That would require a level of consistency that, frankly, Rondo has yet to show, and it would also mean that the league’s definition of valuable would have to expand to accommodate the untranslatable terms of his game.

I prefer to view him as he is: an artist in a land of genetic misfits. His vision is his alone to understand. What we see, we can only admire.


I think this is one of the best pieces on Rondo that I've seen.  It begins to get at something that I think is little understood in sports;  the role that vision plays.  Of course, I don't just mean how well an athlete can see.  I mean also how well they can see with their inner eye.  How well they imagine. But it's more than that.  It's the ability to bring something beautiful into the world.  It's the ability to do something that makes not only fans, but also peers - and even opponents - say 'yes, I do still love this game of basketball!'  Yes, it's still worthwhile to go down to the gym, to go back to the arena, to turn on the tv once again ...

Of course, beautiful creations, be they in a studio, or on a basketball court, always arrouse the age old debate between form and function.   Is it beautiful because of what it is, or because of what it does?   Beautiful creations raise this question and and are their own answer.

Flannery compares Rondo to a cubist.  Me?  Today I was thinking that the artist he most reminds me of is Miles Davis.  Either way, tonight would be such a good night for a touch of greatness.

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Reply Franklin
4:09 PM on November 7, 2012 
Miles Davis and Rondo for sure Paul.
Reply Greg
4:10 PM on November 7, 2012 
Rondo is like a great JAZZ MAN. He does things on a fly,and he plays with his heart.
Reply Morena
4:50 PM on November 7, 2012 
Thank you for sharing once again your thoughts about Rondo and for letting me read Flannery's article. Both beautiful pieces.
Reply paul
5:23 PM on November 7, 2012 
Franklin says...
Miles Davis and Rondo for sure Paul.

I was listening to Miles Davis today, Franklin, and it hit me - that's Rondo! The sound, not Miles Davis. But Miles Davis too - I guess he was a guy who could come off as difficult, but I guess he had a lot of heart.
Reply paul
5:38 PM on November 7, 2012 
Greg says...
Rondo is like a great JAZZ MAN. He does things on a fly,and he plays with his heart.

And when he gets into the flow, no one knows what may happen.
Reply paul
5:40 PM on November 7, 2012 
Morena says...
Thank you for sharing once again your thoughts about Rondo and for letting me read Flannery's article. Both beautiful pieces.

Thankyou, Morena. I never expected that from Flannery. He really went beyond the standard tripe.
Reply Jesse
2:40 AM on November 8, 2012 
much appreciation
Reply paul
5:07 AM on November 8, 2012 
ty Jesse

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