From hated to decisive: 'Playoff Rondo', to the rescue of the Lakers

The point guard is once again decisive in the playoffs, the moment of the season in which he has forged his legend. When his reputation falters, Rondo reappears.


"Some people are cut out for this moment and some are not." These are the words of a certain LeBron James, who spoke thus of his teammate Rajon Rondo at the conclusion of the third game of the Western semifinals, in which the Lakers have imposed on the Rockets with a spectacular performance from the point guard. Anthony Davis, who already shared a dressing room with him in New Orleans, moved along the same lines: "We have the two players with the highest IQ in the League, Rondo and LeBron." They may seem opportunistic statements, with a touch of effect that does not reveal the reality of the situation. But they can also be realistic, based on the career of a player who has always done the job at that point in the season in which some wrists shake (and what wrists are not) and others, like his, perform better than never. That is where the point guard has forged his legend and his reputation, the place where he has shown that he is one of the best players of his generation and a being with an enormous intelligence who knows how to make the right decision at the right time.

The movie has always been the same for Rondo, but it seems that the fans have not quite learned it. And the argument has been more pronounced in recent years, where the regular seasons went from low-key to bad and a dimensionless version of a man deciding playoffs appeared in the playoffs. Rondo's lovers, increasingly scarce and almost in danger of extinction (until now), argue that he is a playoff player (Playoff Rondo), a nomenclature according to the career of a basketball player who appeared in the important moments and dominated the key games despite their obvious lack of shooting, a very heavy slab in the era of triples, in which in addition to the disappearance of the mid-range and the dominant centers, the base position has evolved (or regressed, depending on how you look at it). ) to a dimension in which more is thrown and less is spent. Many remember that Rondo distributed, at just 22 years old, 16 assists in the second game of the 2008 Finals against the Lakers and sentenced them with 21 goals in the sixth, ultimately the final one. Also of the almost triple-double that he averaged in the playoffs the following year, with Garnett injured (16.9 + 9.7 + 9.8, with 2.5 steals and only 2.7 losses) .

The list of achievements in the finals is endless and can be followed chronologically: in 2010 he endorsed LeBron and his Cavs a triple-double of 29 + 18 + 13 and the Greens finished with a +14 with him on track in the fourth game from the Eastern semi-finals of a series that they won as a prelude to The Decision and the beginning of the second part of one of the most impressive stories of all in the NBA. One that Rondo has come across at the Lakers now and that he can help end his height. And for the memory, to continue with his achievements, is the final phase of 2012, the culmination of his career in terms of level, in which he led some already veteran Celtics to touch the Finals averaging 17.3 points in all playoffs , 6.7 rebounds, almost 12 assists and more than 2 steals per game, getting 13 double-doubles in 19 games, 4 triple-doubles and 10 or more assists in all but three games. LeBron eliminated them (45 + 15 in the sixth meeting of that series before sentencing them in the seventh), another irony of fate and another coincidence with El Rey, with whom he seems to share destiny in a year in which one seeks redemption and another his definitive vindication. Guess who's who.

Rondo to the rescue

A priori, Rondo posed serious problems in Frank Vogel's scheme. His defensive level had dropped compared to his time at the Celtics, from which he went on to say that in recent years he had let go thanks to the fact that he had Avery Bradley (another with whom he shares a team this season, at least until the bubble). And in attack, he played in an era apparently different from the current one, as if he lived in the past. Rondo assumes a lot of the ball, he doesn't have a physique that allows him to post (something that nobody does anymore) or run like other great bases in the League (Westbrook at the helm). He plays the counterattack excellently, but in static he plays slow and spends a lot of time in the pot, something incompatible (again, apparently) with a LeBron who needs like eating to have control of the ball. And it does not pull three (eternal floating defenses), something that needs no explanation for anyone who knows minimally the drift that the competition has carried in the last decade. He is, therefore, a different player, almost from another era, with long arms, good hands, a great creator and a good penetrator but never a pure scorer or an athletic physique.

However, against the Rockets he seems to have found his place in the scheme, as if by magic. He is compatible with LeBron, hits triples (we will see if in isolation or becomes routine) as if he had been throwing them all his life (3 of 5 in the third game, although 1 of 5 in the previous one) and is the leader on the court, giving instructions constant to his teammates and defending as he had not seen in a long time, with 5 steals in the second game (in which he distributed 9 assists and lost only 1 ball) and 1 key to Harden in the third, who finished with 21 points, 2 rebounds and 9 assists (3 losses) and a +7 with him on the court ... after the +28 he added the other day. And reaching 1,000 assists in the playoffs, a figure that only he and a LeBron have reached, who goes to the area and to the post when his teammate is on the court, acting as a receiver for his innumerable number of passes. In the second round of the series, he added 3 points, 6 assists and 3 steals only in the first period (less than 7 minutes) and in the latter he has scored or assisted in the first 19 points of the Lakers in the fourth period, reaching to participate directly in 23 of the 30 goals that the Angelenos have scored in the last 12 minutes of the game.

Vogel has always given him many minutes and in March he spoke about swag and the confidence it conveyed to the group. His detractors never saw it clear that the coach kept him on court for so long, but after six months injured he has only had one bad game, the first, later setting two great performances with 30 minutes each. "I believe in him. I always feel good when he's on the track," his coach said after the victory over the Clippers in March, just before the break. And, of course, it seems so, also being his connection with Anthony Davis very important, as shown by those 2018 playoffs in which the Pelicans eliminated the Blazers in the first round with 11 points, 7.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists from Rondo, who in the semifinals went to 21 shots to basket against the Warriors in New Orleans' only win in that round. The only two times Davis has made it through the first round, by the way, has been sharing a team with the point guard, something that even though he was not in the first round due to injury, is still a curious fact. If we remove his stage in the Mavericks, with the farce that the Bulls were in 2016-17, he managed to stand out in the playoffs, stealing two victories from the Celtics in the Garden before being injured and Chicago losing the next four.

That's Rajon Rondo, a playoff player. His rivals have even claimed that he learned his offensive plays on the fly, knowing which one they were pointing at at all times. Social networks have exploded with his exhibition against the Rockets and many have sung the mea culpa after his incredible performance, one more, in the playoffs. Sometimes undervalued, the point guard does not enter any top rankings or is considered one of the best in history in his position, but he is still life insurance and has once again demonstrated where his reputation comes from. Four times All Star, three top assistants, best five of the season and defenders ... all that seems laughable compared to what he is, a man who can give you a ring. Something that, on the other hand, he already has. Playoff Rondo is back. The only thing we need to know is whether he has come to stay.

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