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Welcome back, Rajon

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

I have a complicated relationship with Rajon Rondo. That’s a weird thing to say about a guy who I’ve never met and who doesn’t know I exist, but there it is.  The weirdness stems from my aesthetic appreciation of his game, but that appreciation comes very grudgingly. See, I’m a Chicago Bulls fan (as I have probably mentioned or alluded to many more times than is probably necessary in my writing here at Hickory-High and elsewhere). If you scrape around any corner of the internet where Bulls fans spend time hanging out and bring up Rajon Rondo’s name, you’re likely to get a very nasty response. Typically the response comes in the following form: “F*** Rondo. ”

That might seem extremely harsh and you may be wondering why Bulls’ fans have such a particular distaste for Rondo over other players from other rival Eastern conference teams.  There is a reason for this animus. Allow me to take you back a few years to the 2008-2009 NBA playoffs, in which the upstart Chicago Bulls led by Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose took on the defending champion Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Now, granted, the Celtics were without their best player, Kevin Garnett, who had been lost for the year due to injury, but the Bulls had missed the playoffs the previous year and fans were excited about measuring up against the champs, KG or no KG. The series went 7 games, including games of single overtime, double overtime, and triple overtime. It was insane, fun, and edge-of-your-seat, nail-bitingly anxiety-inducing. Rondo did two things in the series for which many Bulls fans have yet to forgive him. First, in Game 5 of the series, Brad Miller broke wide open for a drive to the rim which would have tied the game at the end of overtime. In desperation, Rondo essentially punched Brad Miller in the head to prevent him from making the layup.

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Miller was awarded a common foul, not the flagrant Rondo deserved. Miller missed the foul shots, which was hardly surprising as he had just been clocked in the head. Bulls fans were (justifiably) pissed. That head shot and the resulting loss would have been enough to sour  many a Bulls fan on Rondo, but he took getting under the skin of the Bulls and their fans up a notch in the next game in the series. While jostling for rebounding position with Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, Rondo grabbed Hinrich by the arm and essentially whipped him into the scorer’s table, like a professional wrestler whipping an opponent into the ropes around the squared circle. It was the second dirty play by Rondo in as many games. As a result, Rondo is, to this day, a much hated figure among Bulls fans.

For my part, I still think those were bush league moves, but I don’t hate Rondo. He’s uber-competitive and one way to win is to push the boundaries of what’s legal. It’s not a strategy with which I agree, but he got away with it and his club won. He’s a guy I’m sure I’d love if he were a Bull, much in the way that Joakim Noah is a guy I love unconditionally, while many fans of other teams detest him. The other reason I don’t hate Rondo with the fiery passion that so many others still hold is because he’s just tremendously fun to watch play basketball. As I’ve written here at Hickory-High before, I place a pretty high value on the entertainment value the NBA provides.  There may not be a more unique and interesting player in the league to watch than Rajon Rondo. He makes passes that no one this side of Ricky Rubio would even see, let alone dare to try. He has a weird, nifty post game. He’s a constant threat to rip a steal from his opponent and turn it into a fast break. He has that absurd fake-behind-the-back-pass-into-layup move that still freezes every big man in the league just enough for him to get his shot off, despite the fact that he almost never throws the behind the back pass in that way.  All of that and more was on display on Friday night as he took on the Lakers in Boston:

He’s just always doing interesting, funky stuff. There’s no one else in the league like him and it was a bummer watching an NBA without him. So welcome back, Rajon. We’ve all (err, most of us anyway) missed you. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

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