pelicansbulls.001.JPG

New Orleans Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo (9) moves down court against the Chicago Bulls Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON
TownNews.com Content Exchange

Midway through the fourth quarter Monday night, Rajon Rondo drove the baseline past Oklahoma City's Alex Abrines.

Then — somehow, some way — it happened.

Rondo threaded the needle with a perfect bounce pass that slithered its ways through three OKC defenders and into the hands of E'Twaun Moore who was cutting toward the basket.

Moore finished the play with a floater that gave the Pelicans an eight-point lead, the team's biggest lead of in what ended up being a 114-107 Pelicans victory.

It's the kind of play Rondo has made time and time again in his 12-year NBA career.

It's the kind of play that made the Pelicans bring Rondo to New Orleans in the first place.

So how did he make the play?

"I just closed my eyes and threw it to a spot and he picked it up at the right time," Rondo explained.

He said it with a straight face, but he was joking.

But chances are, he really could have made the pass with his eyes closed.

He knew Moore would be there.

Rondo sees plays happen before they actually happen, a testament to his diligent film study that helped get him to where he is.

He keeps every game, every practice on his iPad.

"That's my job," Rondo said. "I have one job and that's to be the best basketball player I can be. I am extension of the coach out there on the floor as a point guard, so I have to know where all five guys' spots are on the floor at all times. Sometimes guys need a little direction. If I call a play, and they know where to go, I need to know where they are going to be."

Ask his teammates or any coach in the league about Rondo and chances are, the phrase "coach on the floor" will come up at some point.

"He's just really smart,"Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. "He has such a great feel for the game and really good vision. He can impact the game in a lot of different ways."

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey calls Rondo a "computer on the floor."

Teammate DeMarcus Cousins calls him "a wizard on the court."

Alvin Gentry says he's one of the smartest players he's ever seen. 

It all goes back to his film study.

"I thought I knew it all, but film doesn't lie," Rondo said. "It's hard to watch, but at the end of the day, you're able to learn and critique yourself. The best teacher for me always has been film."

Rondo started breaking down film when he was 14.

Credit Doug Bibby, Rondo's coach at Eastern High in Louisville, Kentucky, for that.

"I always thought good film study was even better than a good practice and Rajon just really embraced it," Bibby said. " He understood the game at an early age. The one thing that surpassed his athletic ability was his intellect. He's just an incredibly intelligent guy."

It's why Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has a good idea what Rondo should be doing whenever Rondo writes the final chapter on an NBA career that includes four trips to the NBA All-Star game, four times a member of the NBA All-Defensive team, and an NBA title with the Boston Celtics.

"I think he's going to be a heck of a coach in this league whenever he decides not to play anymore," Gentry said.

Rondo's done that before too.

Bibby recalls those times in scrimmages when he would coach one team and let Rondo coach the other.

"He was my No. 1 assistant coach," Bibby said. "He helped me with my scouting report. If I didn't have time to break down film, he would."

And then there was the time Bibby had to miss two weeks of practice when his son was in the hospital.

Rondo would call Bibby every day and Bibby would give him the practice schedule and Rondo would run practice.

"He had those guys running and practicing hard as if I was there," Bibby recalled. "And he was just a kid."

An inquisitive kid, Rondo always wanted to know more. He's still that way, often asking Gentry questions about some game or practice he's watched on his iPad.

"When he's asking questions, he's not being a smart a**," Bibby said. "He's just being smart. He has a brilliant basketball mind."

Bibby comes from a famliy full of basketball minds. His father played professional basketball. His uncle, Henry Bibby, and his first cousin, Mike Bibby, played in the NBA. But when it comes to basketball IQ, he rates Rondo towards the top.

"Every family reunion and every Thanksgiving, I probably sit at the table with the best basketball minds," Bibby said. "Rondo would run that meeting. He just knows what needs to be done. He always sees a play three plays ahead."

It's how Rondo knew Moore was going to be where he was when he was on that highlight-reel play Monday night. Moore, who played briefly with Rondo with the Celtics, was ready for the pass

"I know how he thinks when he is out there," Moore said. "He can look a defender off  to get you open. It's a lot of fun playing with him because he just makes everybody better by getting us easy buckets. He is pretty unique. One of a kind."

Rondo's stats in Monday's game (two points, nine assists) won't blow you away.

But he has a way of impacting games that won't show up on the stat sheet.

He controlled the game late in the fourth quarter and his heady played helped the Pelicans preserve a win that in the past may have slipped away.

He's a student of the game, but also also a teacher of it. It's why he signed during the offseason with the Pelicans, a team he sees as a title contender.

"That's what I want to bring to this team," Rondo said in his first news conference after signing with the Pels.  "I want to be able to teach the guys like Demarcus (Cousins) and (Anthony Davis) how to break down the game and how to do all the intangibles."

Rondo is still finding his way with the Pelicans. When the Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, it'll be just his fifth game after missing the first 13 with a sports hernia injury.

He spent those 13 games coaching from the bench.

Now he's getting to coach on the floor.

It's something he could probably do with his eyes closed.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.

This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments