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- For all of his ups and downs in the NBA, Rajon Rondo has been known as one of the smartest basketball players in the league.
- A recent anecdote shared by former teammate Brian Scalabrine exemplifies Rondo’s untiring understanding of the game.
- Throughout his career, Rondo has shown a familiarity with his opponents’ playbooks that is almost difficult to believe.
Rajon Rondo is an NBA enigma.
After winning an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, Rondo was a regular All-Star through 2013, when injuries and a changing league saw his game drop off quite a bit.
Rondo hopped from team to team for years but has now found a new run of success with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Through all of his ups and downs though, it was never doubted that Rondo was one of the most cerebral players in the league, seen in both his outsized defensive presence and impressive ability to find unseen passing lanes on the court.
But an anecdote recently shared by former teammate Brian Scalabrine for a new NBC Sports Boston documentary on the 2008 Celtics shows Rondo’s intelligence in a whole new way, according to Nicole Yang of Boston.com:
After retirement, Scalabrine became an assistant for the Golden State Warriors. When he returned to the TD Garden for a regular-season game, Scalabrine said head coach Mark Jackson shouted out a call, “42 cross,” for his team. But the play was a bluff. The Warriors didn’t have a “42 cross” in their playbook – and Rondo knew.
Rondo looked at Mark, and then he looked in the air and said, ’42 cross, 42 cross,’ and then he looked back at Mark and said, ‘You don’t have a 42 cross.’ I was like, ‘How the hell did he just know that?’ Somehow, some way, he knew that. And they’re not a rival. It wasn’t a playoff series. It was an insignificant game during the middle of the week. He was the smartest player I’ve ever played with and it’s not even close.
It’s not the first time Rondo’s knowledge of his opponent’s playbook has helped his team out. Back in 2016, Rondo sent DeMarcus Cousins to stand in an empty corner while the Kings were defending on the final play of the game. While the decision looked odd at the start, the plan worked out brilliantly, as the Hawks immediately ran to the space on the inbound, only to be met by Cousins standing at the ready.
The task of playing night after night through the regular season is not an easy one, and the fact that Rondo was aware enough of an opposing team’s playbook to not only know what’s in it but also know what’s not in it, is radically impressive.