Rajon Rondo, The Comedian


In a matter of some 12 or so hours, an admission that seemingly sparked the inferno that would threaten the relationship between the Kings’ head coach and its enigmatic new point guard was quickly extinguished by the realization that no such admission actually existed. Not literally, anyway.

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We knew Rajon Rondo’s résumé contained at least four All-Star berths, two NBA All-Defensive First Team recognitions, two single-season NBA Assist Leader commendations, and an NBA championship. Now, after last night and this morning, we can add “comedic genius” to that impressive, now all the more comprehensive document.

“Anyone that knows me, I have a dry sense of humor, I can keep a straight face when I’m joking,” said Rondo today, per James Ham.

I guess “straight” is one way you could’ve characterized his face in that video. You could’ve also gone with “dispirited,” “disinterested,” “detached,” or “devoid entirely of any hint of positive human emotion whatsoever.”

It says something about Rajon Rondo, about who he is and how he’s different, that after nine years of questions, interviews and media pressers, we still can’t get a read on him—on what he’s thinking, on what he’s intending.

Oct 13, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo (9) dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers s at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Among a growing sea of regurgitated clichés, we, the fans and media, demand candor in response, only to greet it with confusion and, at times, contempt.

Rondo’s mysterious public presence is refreshing, as is his play this preseason.

Last night’s win was perhaps Sacramento’s best through five early preseason games. The team’s 26 assists was the most it has tallied thus far, and its 11 turnovers was the least—due in no small part to the diminished quality of yesterday’s opponent compared to that of Portland, Phoenix and San Antonio. But the Kings displayed new growth, and chemistry, which was encouraging nonetheless.

Make no mistake, Rajon Rondo was integral in creating that. In just five technically-meaningless games, Rondo, when on the floor, has already become this offense’s unquestioned leader. He brings the ball up following conceded baskets, receives the Slamson’s share of the team’s inbound passes, and serves as the offense’s conductor in half court sets, waving and gesturing directions to teammates on where and when to slide, cut or screen off the ball.

Unsurprisingly, he’s flourished as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in plays where the defense’s growing attention on Rondo allows for scoring opportunities elsewhere.

Short of actually setting a pick, Koufos’ neighboring presence drags his defender (Roy Hibbert) off Kosta and in front of Rondo, providing a relatively easy pass and finish. Again, these plays will prove more difficult against stiffer competition, but they will also prove more threatening — not to mention more versatile — with DeMarcus Cousins in place of Koufos, in this instance.

Yet, Rondo’s court vision and facilitating acumen is most evident in opportunities that arise organically by way of spontaneous, free-flowing ball movement among multiple individuals. Decisive, side-to-side passing forces slight defensive imbalances, which Rondo is able to leverage into penetrable driving lanes and subsequent open looks.

There must be a certain assisting ability special to Rondo, where those who receive his passes feel more compelled, perhaps more confident, in making the shot he so uniquely set them up for.

Obviously there’s no tangible evidence to back such an assertion, but the guy’s reputation alone must affect a shooter’s psyche, inspiring an obligation, of sorts, to convert the shot attempt.

It’s like how, if you break someone’s ankles, you better make the open shot afterwards. Otherwise, what does it matter?

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