Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo has been sitting out the second part of back-to-back games all season, so it made sense for Boston’s Comcast affiliate to reach out to the former All-Star to gauge his interest in participating in a game broadcast. The C’s have had a rotating flotilla of color analysts this season as longtime sideline fixture Tommy Heinsohn has dialed back his road appearances with the team, and Rondo’s presence alongside Mike Gorman during Monday’s contest brightened up what was yet another dreary Celtics loss.
Rondo was fantastic. He was predictably cerebral and a fantastic in-game analyst, but what was most surprising was his ability to calmly call the action on the fly. Reacting to live plays is one thing any of us can churn out without much thought. All the guttural responses and instinctual quick takes don’t often make for good television. Rondo was great television, though, all by design.
The Celtics point guard also received some homework: a 30-minute DVD with examples of television standups, including from Maxwell and Tommy Heinsohn, and also some color commentary clips.
Finally, Monday morning, Rondo sat in on a 40-minute editorial meeting with Comcast SportsNet crew members to discuss that evening’s broadcast, when Rondo would be making his debut as a television color analyst during the Celtics’ game against the Bulls.
“He was quoting things from the DVD,” said Mike Gorman, Comcast SportsNet’splay-by-play voice for Celtics games, who worked alongside Rondo.
“He had done all his homework. He was excited about wearing the headset. There’s part of him that’s like a little kid about this — he was genuinely excited.”
Rondo wasn’t excitable, though, and that’s what set him apart. Color analysts aren’t asked to delve too much into detail about X's and O's minutia, at some point the entertainment aspect has to take over, and fair-weather fans (witness the rise of some of your more popular national TV color “analysts”) often seem to react to personality above everything else.
A Monday night game between the struggling Celtics and Derrick Rose-less Bulls, pitched on the same day the Red Sox began their title defense, is not for fair-weather fans. And Rondo’s work in the first half (longtime Celtics radio and television analyst Cedric Maxwell took over in the second half) was as telling as it was excellent.
Watch some of his better moments:
Once he recovers from injury, Rondo will be in his prime, so it’s almost a disservice to discuss his post-playing career when he has so much game left in him. While point guards are usually tagged for possible head-coaching duties once the retirement age hits, Monday night’s performance left me wondering if the taciturn-yet-mindful Rondo might be better served with a front-office gig, not unlike Celtics legend Larry Bird enjoys with the Indiana Pacers. It’s true Bird is a one-time NBA Coach of the Year, but his three-year coaching stint with the Pacers saw assistants Dick Harter and Rick Carlisle doing most of the talking.
That doesn’t mean Rondo kept things too close to the vest on Monday. With Joakim Noah averaging 16 points, nine assists, 9.5 rebounds and three combined blocks/steals during Chicago’s two-game, back-to-back sweep of the C’s, Rondo discussed his appreciation for his longtime combatant. Via Ben Rohrbach and Green Street:
“I think this is 10 years for Noah and I that we’ve played against each other. We played each other in AAU and obviously in college, so Noah and I have been battling for a long time. A very long time. About two years ago, we came to an understanding, because we were always going at each other, and we didn’t never really understand why, but I think it’s because we both love to compete. He’s a guy who’s going to bring it every night, and I do the same, but we don’t play the same position, so one game we were at the free throw line and just thought about why we even go at each other. We kind of squashed it. No beef. No big deal. He’s fun to compete against.”
Rondo, apparently, shares no such beef with Benny the Bull:
As sweet as it sounds, analyzing basketball games in real time is no easy gig, and Rondo did fantastic work for someone with no background in the field. Lucky for him, he had the Larry Bird of play-by-play announcers – in the fantastic form of Mike Gorman – to work with.
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