Perhaps it never occurred to Rajon Rondo‘s loudest critics that the NBA All-Star point guard has rarely been a big-time scorer because he’s rarely had to be.
From his star-making high school senior year at Oak Hill Academy, to his collegiate run at Kentucky, to his pro tenure with the Celtics, Rondo has gone from one loaded powerhouse of a team to another. He shared the court with All-American and eventual NBA standout Josh Smith at Oak Hill, with Joe Crawford at UK (the school’s 19th all-time leading scorer), and has played alongside future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal in Boston. The last time Rondo was asked to carry the scoring load for a team, he dropped 27.9 points per game as a junior at Eastern High School in Louisville.
So forgive Rondo if he doesn’t share the conventional view that he can’t get buckets on command.
I got a few minutes to speak with Rondo this past weekend at the Red Bull King of the Rock 1-on-1 tournament in San Francisco. Before he presented KOTR winner Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones with the title trophy and ring, Rondo talked about his own 1-on-1 credentials and what he’s been up to during the NBA lockout.
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Dime: What’s the difference between a great 1-on-1 player and a great basketball player?
Rajon Rondo: It’s a big difference. Some people make it to the League being great 1-on-1 players and some don’t make it despite being great 1-on-1 players. And vice versa â€“ some make it and they’re not great 1-on-1 players.
Dime: If the Celtics held a 1-on-1 tournament, who would win?
RR: Probably me. I mean, we play a little 1-on-1 sometimes. Paul’s pretty good â€“ he’s probably the best 1-on-1 player we have â€“ ’cause he can score inside and outside, and he can check guards and bigs. So I could say Paul, or I could say I’d win.
Dime: What about a 1-on-1 tournament with just NBA point guards. Who wins?
Dime: Okay, so who would you beat in the finals?
RR: Whoever gets there.
Dime: What separates an event like Red Bull King of the Rock from the NBA or college ball?
RR: Obviously the game is called tighter in college and the pros, but that’s how people get to that level; that’s how they get to the pros is by playing 1-on-1 like this. You learn to compete and get a little toughness about yourself.