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What would Red Auerbach think of Rajon Rondo?

Red Auerbach pioneered the way basketball is played today. He preached fundamentals, sharing the ball on offense, and team defense. Fifty years later, Rajon Rondo is revolutionizing the sport just like his predecessor.

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

When you throw a chest pass, you want to make sure that your fingers rotate out, that the ball back spins toward your target, and your thumbs point straight to the ground after the release.

With your jump shot, spread your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain balance, keep the ball on your fingertips and not on your palms, and make a straight line from your elbow to your wrist to the rim.

That's the way Red Auerbach taught the game for twenty five years. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. If you haven't seen the Red On Roundball videos, they're pretty great. He's got Larry Bird talking about shooting free throws, Bill Russell on intimidation, and '76 Celtics running the fast break. They remind me of basketball camp when I was a kid. I'd chuck a basketball against my garage hundreds of times a day and before I went to sleep, I'd practice my follow through in bed. Like any sport, basketball is a game of repetition. You do it over and over again until it becomes natural.

By the way, that's everything that Rondo preys on. Doc has talked about how he's the smartest player he's ever coached and I don't doubt that. I don't even think it's close. It's a checkers and chess thing with him. He has this uncanny ability to do WHAT YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY NOT SUPPOSED TO DO and make it work. Just by comparison, check out the training videos from Rondo's Red Bull tour of Southeast Asia. Only Rondo would travel halfway around the world to teach kids how to eurostep and finish with the opposite hand. Let's see you do that, Rick Barry.


Back in March, I was asked by the late great Tim Allen at Cannis Hoopus what I thought about RR. I wrote:

I always think of Rondo as that guy that shows up at the park with short shorts and spends a good five minutes stretching. He seemingly has never played basketball in his entire life but inexplicably drops seven buckets in a game to 13. When he's supposed to go left, he goes right. Scoop shots and fall away jumpers that shouldn't go in, go in. Everything seems so unorthodox and on accident. That's Rondo.

He's a basketball savant. People who have played basketball at any level know that it's a choreographed dance; when you give someone a pick, you can either roll, slip, or fade; when someone cuts to the basket, both offense and defense shift to correct the spacing on the court. Like a chess master, Rondo knows all this and knows everybody's tendencies, offense and defense, and does what you least expect. Watch him on a fast break: instead of trying to throw a fake and jab stepping in the opposite direction, he drives it right into the defender's chest because that's the least likely option. Actually, it's not even an option to begin with but Rondo makes it so. He's not trying to draw a foul (yes, I'll give you that he's a poor free throw shooter). He's just trying to play outside of the box.

People can argue that Paul, Westbrook, Rose, and Williams are better and they'll qualify it by saying that Rondo is a "pure point guard" but I hate that comparison because that's just a nice way of saying that Rondo can't shoot and he makes up for it because he's just really good at passing. That's hogwash. Compared to those guys, what makes Rondo a great player--and puts him in a class unto himself--is that he actually makes his teammates better by amplifying what they're already good at. I think with those other players, they make the game, for lack of a better word, easier for their team. Kevin Durant doesn't have to score as much on his own because Westbrook will pick up the slack. Blake Griffin and Carlos Boozer will have a little more room to operate because Paul and Rose attract so much defensive attention.

But with Rondo, he works in spite of those conventions: he doesn't score a lot of points and he rarely commands a double team. Doc calls him the smartest player he's ever coached and I believe him. What Rondo does is manipulate the entire court so that his teammates can excel at what they're best at. Sometimes it's as subtle as shifting his shoulders so that the defense thinks he's going in one direction or as deliberate as cupping the ball with his giant hands and faking out his defender, the help defender, and the guy selling hot dogs in the third row. Watch him tonight, especially in transition. He's got a very distinct voice and you can hear him orchestrate every play on both sides of the ball. He may not be a franchise player, but I think he's definitely a guy that franchise players want to play with.

Check out the NBA's phantom camera on some of his highlights from the monster performance he put on in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals:

Phantom: Rajon Rondo's Game 2 for the Ages (via NBA)

There's nothing fundamental about it. His elbow juts out awkwardly on his jumper. He shoots reverse layups with the "wrong" hand. Instead of speeding things up and making quick decisions on the fast break, he slows everything down until the defense gets comfortable and then attacks. Miami zigs, Rondo zags.

In hindsight, it's not a surprise to me that Rondo and Ray Allen didn't get along. Ray's a military brat who takes comfort in the regiment of life. His legendary pre-game routine must have been French to Rondo and his freelancing style. Ray's gone now and if today's Media Day was any indication, Rondo and the rest of the Celtics are trying to turn the page. Doc and Danny have talked in stereo about Rondo's leadership role on the team and it looks like he's taking his unconventional approach to that, too. Red would have had Hondo running laps at the local YMCA while Rondo hosted a one-on-one tournament at Alcatraz and interned at GQ. I doubt Auerbach would have sent the team to the west coast to play flag football at UCLA. I even have my doubts that Ray Allen would have even participated (possibly if it was in South Beach and maybe if it was for less money). But that's Rondo. For better or for worse, he's the new face of the franchise and personally, it's refreshing to see him open up like he has this summer and really show the free spirit that had been overshadowed by The Big Three.

It's a shame that we lost Red three days before Rondo would play his first game as a Celtic back in 2006. Rondo would have frustrated Red with his herky-jerky style and avant-garde attitude, but I can see Red's face lighting up watching Rondo revolutionize the game right before his eyes. It would be like handing Alexander Graham Bell an iPhone 5 or taking the Wright Brothers on a trip in the space shuttle. Red would scratch his head and laugh and tell Rondo "whatever works, kid." Rondo would joke about Red's fashion sense but give him props for his classic style, but they'd agree on one thing: winning. Whatever it takes, all that matters is winning. And then they'd light a cigar together and they'd talk about the best way to raise Banner 18.

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