(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Cary Edmondson)
Rajon Rondo has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in New Orleans this season. After three years in NBA purgatory with Dallas, Sacramento and Chicago, Rondo has been back to the player we saw during two runs to the NBA Finals with Boston.
Rondo’s career has been hard to measure. For some, he is a selfless point guard who was the perfect compliment to an All-Star trio in Boston. For others, he is a player who chases stats and is a disruptive presence in the locker room.
A general on the court
Rondo has always been a pass-first point guard. The Kentucky stand out has led the league in assists three times and during his time in Boston led an offense that included Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
In New Orleans, surrounded by the generational talent of Anthony Davis as well as a resurgent Jrue Holiday and a rehabilitated DeMarcus Cousins, Rondo has rediscovered his mojo. Having settled in quickly, Rondo averaged 8.2 assists for the regular season and set a franchise postseason record with 21 assists in New Orleans’ Game 3 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Rondo has always been a crafty passer in the half-court and when surrounded by talented teammates, is an effective general at the point. Since he landed in The Big Easy, Rondo has looked back to his best.
A leader off the court
Throughout his troubled journey across the NBA, Rondo gained a reputation as a locker room malcontent. His bleak period reached its peak when he was suspended from the NBA for using a homophobic slur towards referee Bill Kennedy. For much of this period, Rondo cut a frustrated figure on and off the court and his time as a top NBA player seemed over.
However, since he arrived in Louisiana, he has taken responsibility both on and off the court. This New Orleans squad has formed a tight-knit bond off the court as well as on it and this is largely down to Rondo. The team meet regularly on nights off, whatever city they are in, helping form the kind of team unity required to succeed in the NBA.
Rondo knows firsthand how important this is as he learned from the best in Boston. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce fostered this kind of environment during the Celtics’ championship run in 2008. Such was the unity in Boston that when Allen left for Miami, he was completely shunned by that entire Boston squad.
Along with Davis, Rondo has strived to create a similar environment in New Orleans, and judging by the way the Pelicans have finished the season it is paying dividends.
What is his legacy?
So how will Rajon Rondo be remembered? As the four-time All-Star who was central to one of the finest teams of the past decade or the malcontent who burned bridges in three NBA cities?
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Rondo is a troubled character who’s treatment of Bill Kennedy and subsequent apology was disgraceful. At times, he has been a toxic presence on bad teams who has been unwilling to make the effort in a losing cause.
Equally, in the right situation Rondo has shown himself to be a loyal teammate and excellent basketball player. It will be interesting to see how history remembers this divisive player. One suspects it may have a lot to do with how his time in New Orleans ends.
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