Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where Anything Happens...

Rajon Rondo has been one of the most highly criticized point guards in the entire NBA since joining the superstar laden Boston Celtics last season as a rookie. Being placed in charge of leading that team, with such high expectations, could not have been easy! However right now, with the departure of emotional team leader Kevin Garnett, it’s Rondo that has picked up the slack to fill the void, and it's Rondo who has been the main reason the Celtics are still surviving by the skin of their teeth (last night was yet another Overtime thriller between the Celtics and Chicago Bulls, with the C’s BARELY squeaking out the win at home).

Averaging a triple double so far in the playoffs with a line 24 ppg, 10.2 rebounds and 10.2 assists through 5 games it’s hard to dispute that Rondo is crucial to Boston’s success, especially since it’s pretty clear that Garnett will not return this postseason. That and the play of the other two corners of the trifecta, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, are rather streaky and inconsistent to date. Rajon Rondo will pretty much do anything to win – and as of last night I can clearly say he really will do ANYTHING!

Something funny happened last night as we as fans saw that generally reserved for the other playoffs going on right now, that being questionable shots to the head. In the dying seconds of overtime Brad Miller of the Chicago Bulls had the ball wide open and drove, seemingly to an easy, game tying lay-up. This plan was foiled by Rondo however with a clearly intentional foul as he tried to take Miller’s head off. After receiving stitches inside his mouth as a result of the shot from Rondo, the somewhat reliable Free Throw shooter Miller missed his first shot. Miller intentionally missed the second one in hopes of a rebound by his team that they could score off of the rebound but to no avail, the Celtics hung on for the important victory on home court. Once again the little Point Guard that could made his presence felt in deciding the game in Boston’s favour.

The defending champs are reeling as a much lesser team in the Chicago Bulls are making both units look equal strength, if not reversed at times throughout this series. It’s taken this team all the way to brutish behaviour to ensure victory. However the amazing thing is that one cannot simply blame the Rondo for this questionable behaviour right now!

In another series where the favourites were being given all they could handle the Orlando Magic met with the Philadelphia 76ers last night, and the manchild superstar Dwight Howard of the Magic also imposed his physical with an elbow to Philadelphia’s Center Samuel Dalembert. While not as crucial a play, and while rightly called a technical foul (unlike Rondo’s which was called just a personal foul), it was still a very significant play that opened things up for the remainder of the game for the one they call Superman.

There are conspiracy theories abound in regards to Rondo’s foul, as a technical foul call would have allowed the Bulls to choose the shooter of their choice for the shot and then given them the ball back out of bounds as well. But whether the always-catering-to-their-superstars Association did allow the Celtics to slip away with one is of lesser concern than the point made by TrueHoops today in their blog write-up of the incidents:

Not to read too much into unrelated plays by Howard and Rondo, but certainly today the ball's in the NBA's court. Having been so careful in recent years to make the game less about brutish defense, and more about offense and the beauty of the game, are these the new rules of engagement? Are heads fair game? And if so, as it works so well, can't we expect more of the same?

In the same week that Donald Brashear was handed out a 6 game suspension mid-playoffs for a head shot in an aggressive, physically based sport, another sport which actually outlaws any physical contact between players is left to look at itself in the mirror and decide what happens next.

Dwight Howard was already punished during the game for his foul, adding on to that punishment would not be as hard as with Rajon Rondo who was essentially dismissed of any major grievance by the officials not elevating the severity of the call. Perhaps it is worth a second look by those in command of discipline in the NBA though?

What will remain a point of contention for the rest of the series no doubt, the level of physicality needs to be addressed by David Stern right now before things really get out of hand. Last night the names on the jerseys may have staved off such a move, that should never be the case but alas it's the standard operating procedure within the NBA. At what point, however, will that no longer matter? And will it be far too late?

Winners, Apparently, Hit People in the Head (TrueHoop)
When All Else Fails, Just Punch Brad Miller In The Face (Deadspin)
Tim Legler: Spare Rondo (ESPN)
Jalen Rose: Suspend Superman (ESPN)

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