I'm going to talk sports.
(This means that some of you will immediately seek your pleasure someplace else. I'll help. Go HERE. I promise to NOT talk sports the next time we get together, OK? As for the rest of you, you've been warned.)
Last night, I went to see the Celtics play the Dallas Mavericks, courtesy of Santa Claus (aka MY WIFE). She bought me tickets to that game as a Christmas present. The import of the game came via it being Rajon Rondo's return to The Garden after his trade to Dallas.
For those of you who don't know my every thought and feeling (why not?) Rajon Rondo is my favorite basketball player. When the Celtics traded him, my heart was broken. I think he's an unique talent, the smartest player in the NBA. And I don't mean just "basketball IQ", as sportswriters usually phrase it; I mean the smartest player, period. I don't have copies of his college transcripts or anything, but everything I've read about him points to it. Math, and particularly geometry, has been mentioned as one of his strengths during his school years. The bounce passes he makes are definitely a by-product of that (all about angles and making them work to his advantage.) He has often been cited by his coaches as having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Rick Carlisle, his new coach, has said one of the things he's discovered about Rondo, since the trade, is that Rajon can solve any puzzle presented to him (and won't stop trying to figure it out until he does.) The guy is just plain intelligent, and I like intelligent players.
(Just a couple of things the guy has done, on the basketball court, demonstrate that intelligence. He perfected his ability to save a possession for his team, via ricocheting the ball off an opposing player and subsequently out of bounds, early on. And he was the first player to realize that the clock doesn't start until someone touches the ball on an in-bounds pass, so he had his teammates ROLL the ball up the court to him on in-bounds passes so he could decide when to contact the ball, usually when it reached the front court, thus saving four or five seconds of shot clock time. That's a little touch of genius.)
I contend the guy will be a first-ballot hall-of-famer, a sentiment not unanimously endorsed by Celtics fans. I believe some folks just don't understand his game (maybe they don't really understand the game period, but I'll forgo that assessment for now.) He is the basketball equivalent of a quarterback in football. The quarterback's job is not to score. It is his job to facilitate scoring by his teammates. The QB passes and hands off; others do the scoring, for the most part. And that's what Rondo does. He "stands in the pocket", to use a football term, looking for an open receiver. When he finds one, he delivers the ball to him. It's as simple as that, but Rondo does it better than anyone else in the league. And, just as when you show a quarterback an open path to the goal line, Rondo will take the opportunity to make the score himself.
The biggest accolade I can pay him is to note that the bigger the stage, the better he performs. Put the game on national TV, or make it a playoff game, and he rarely disappoints. He relishes the opportunity. That's the surest sign of a truly great player.
OK, so we went to the game and it was the first time in my 50 years of being a Celtics fan that I ever actively rooted against the Celtics. And Rondo delivered. I knew, with certainty, that he'd consider this a big deal and I expected nothing less than a stellar performance. He went out and scored his team's first 10 points (at that time, it was Rondo - 10, Celtics - 7) and he hit a career high of 5 three-point shots. He finished leading the game in scoring (29), added 5 assists and 6 rebounds, played good defense and otherwise did exactly what I expected him to do.
The Garden crowd awarded him three different standing ovations, showing their love for him and his past duty for the home crowd. For his part, he almost smiled (Rondo is the Buster Keaton of professional basketball) and he said all of the right and gracious things in his post-game press conference.
I now have closure on my loss of him from my favorite team. I'll bleed green once again and look to those still with the Celtics to get my basketball jollies. Still, I'll follow Rondo for the rest of his career, no matter where he's playing, because if you have a love you don't stop having it just because the person changes clothes.
So now it's safe for the non-sports folks to come back. I've blown off some steam and will probably not have another sports post at least until the week of the Super Bowl.
Soon, with more better stuff.