Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rajon Rondo's Ben Affleck Problem

Rajon Rondo and Ben Affleck have the same problem. It’s called the “yeah, but...” syndrome. They are both talented individuals, but this disease makes people talk about their shortcomings whenever you talk about how great they are. It’s probably be described with an example. Imagine you’re talking with friend and you start talk about Affleck’s directing credentials..
        You say, “ Hey I just saw Argo. It’s fantastic. Ben Affleck has totally established himself as one of the best directors in Hollywood today.”
        Your friend replies, “Yeah, but wasn’t he in Gigli? And Reindeer Games? I still can’t take him seriously.”
Now switch the conversation to your best basketball chum. You say, “Rajon Rondo is the best player on the Celtics and the team will be better with him in a leadership role.”
Your friend replies, “Yeah, but doesn’t he shoot like 60% at the free throw line?  Doesn’t he turn the ball over a lot? And isn’t he a hot head? I still can’t take him seriously.”
        Affleck’s movie, Gigli did receive a 7% rating on the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes. And Rondo did record a personal worst 3.6 turnovers per game last year. You can’t disregard those numbers, but just because you get nominated for a Razzie, doesn’t mean you can’t win an Oscar as well.
        I’m not a director, nor am I a point guard, but I’ll venture a guess that those jobs have some similarities. They have to call the shots. They have to work with people to get the right flow to a scene or the right movement to a play. Both a good point guard and a director know when to let people improvise. If Affleck/Rondo can lead behind the camera and add something in front of it, I say let them go forward.
        One of the biggest concerns about Rondo is his shot. It was downright disgusting at times last year. His true shooting percentage was 48.3% on the season, well below the league average. Luckily, Rondo has a new supporting cast that can help disguise his shooting inconsistencies. Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee all had true shooting percentages above the league average of 52%. (I used the numbers from Green’s 2010 season, his last full season.) The right supporting cast can cover for the shortcomings of a leader. If the leader directs them correctly as Rondo can dishing the ball, just ask Jeremy Renner and his Oscar nomination for The Town.
        Rondo is a master at ball handling. He doesn’t need to be LeBron James and do everything. Ben Affleck has mastered the art of creating a story. He doesn’t need to be George Clooney in front of the camera. Remember that Affleck won an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon when he was 25.
It’s the same story with Rondo. During Game 4 of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Rondo made a pass between LeBron James and Mario Chalmers to a driving Paul Pierce in a space that looked to amount to the size of a sheet of paper. Announcer Jeff Van Gundy even said that he didn’t think anybody else in the league could do that.  Rondo has a unique set of skills that very few other point guards possess. He doesn’t have to be a LeBron James do-everything sort of guy. The offense doesn’t need to run through him. He directs the offense and the Celtics are fortunate to have him do his thing well.
        How do Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce fit in to Rondo’s development? Let’s pretend those two are Alan Arkin and John Goodman, two guys who had roles  in Argo. They play two seasoned Hollywood veterans, one a makeup artist and the other a director. They help create the film company that produces the fake movie that is going to help rescue the Americans trapped in Iran. They provide a role for support, but they don’t head to Iran. KG and Pierce are getting up there in age and coach Doc Rivers can’t expect them to be in the thick of things for all 82 games. They have a place and can step up when they are called on, but for day to day operations, its Rondo’s turn to lead.
        One of the best lines in Argo comes when Affleck and his CIA cohorts propose the movie rescue mission to their supervisor. Their boss doesn’t like it and they respond, “This is the best bad idea we have, sir.” And that bad idea worked. Rondo might not be the best point guard in the NBA, but he's the best player for the Cetlics right now. And they're better for it.

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