He dives and drives and gets drilled to the hardwood, and there he is again, bouncing up like a cartoon character full of life after being flattened by a truck.
He leaves skid marks on the floor, and the floor leaves purple bruises on him.
We knew before these NBA playoffs that the kid was silky, smart, flashy. Now we know he can take a hit, peel himself off the parquet and keep scooting around the court.
"Shorty", that’s what the Big Three on the Boston Celtics call him. Maybe it’s time for a new nickname, even if he is only 6-foot-1 and doesn’t play at the same altitude as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Shorty. It’s an affectionate jab, an ego-check to keep a young kid respectful of his elder, more established and taller brethren. But two years after he joined them on their NBA title run in 2008, he’s the one leading the way as the Celtics head for a renewal of the league’s premier championship rivalry Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In some uninformed circles, it might seem a putdown or, at best, a left-handed compliment, to compare an NBA player now with one from a half-century ago. Those who believe in the evolution of the NBA would argue that players are bigger, faster, more athletic than those of yesteryear. In Boston, there’s no higher compliment than saying that Rondo plays like Bob Cousy, the prototype of the modern point guard, who was decades ahead of his time when he led the Celtics to the first six of their record 17 championships. Even the Cooz, no softie at 81, thinks the comparison is a fair one.
"I've been saying since probably the first year that it seems to me he touches all the bases for a point guard," Cousy told the Boston Herald in April. "... He rebounds much taller than he is. he's a tough, tough defender. And he creates well. He adds a little something, so he's obviously getting more confident with the moves and the imagination that he shows. As far as I'm concerned, he's their most valuable player this year."
Rondo has all of Cousy’s moves: the no-look passes, the behind-the-back dribbles, the hand and head fakes. Overlap a grainy tape of Cousy on a recent video replay of Rondo and they look like the same player with different length shorts. Rondo’s the one with the headband and sleeve.
Want some numbers to compare them? Cousy averaged 18.4 points, 7.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game over 13 years. Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 9.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds this year, his fourth in the NBA after two years at Kentucky. He broke Cousy’s franchise record for most assists in a season (794). Rondo upped his production in the first three rounds of the playoffs to 16.7 points, 10 assists and 5.3 rebounds.
Cousy had a larcenous side to him, though steals weren’t officially recorded until 10 years after he retired in 1963. Rondo set a Celtics record with 189 steals this season.
There’s something different, though, about Rondo. Cousy always looked as if he needed a shave, and he played with a kind of defiant conviction that he was taking the NBA into a new era of speed and dazzle. The smooth-cheeked Rondo wears a wide-eyed expression that makes it seem as if he’s forever discovering new things about the game and himself. Maybe he is.
PBT: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that the Heat have a more effective plan of attack against Roy Hibbert than the Knicks.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
NBA finals: Who has the edge?
ProBasketballTalk takes a position-by-position look at the matchup between the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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