Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rajon Rondo's biggest assist of the year

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is the current league leader in assists, with a whopping 13.4 per game. He is likely to remain the league's assist leader for the indefinite future. Two time MVP Steve Nash is second on this season's list, yet he is a considerable distance behind Rondo, averaging 10.8 assists per game. This gap will not be overcome.

To put it into some context, assume for a moment that Nash and Rondo both play every game remaining in their respective regular seasons, and that Nash assumes his 10.8apg pace throughout. If Nash passes for exactly 10.8 apg over Phoenix's remaining 43 games, Rondo need average only 9.3 assists per game for the remainder of the season to stay ahead of him. That's still a lot, but not for Rondo.

(As an aside, when was the last time had 10 times more assists than fouls? Because that's where Steve Nash is at right now.)

Rondo's 13.4 apg average, should it sustain, would be the 8th highest total of all time. Only 7 times has it been bettered - 5 of those times by all time assist leader John Stockton - and never by more than 1.1apg. It is perhaps therefore understandable that Rondo, notorious over-passer than he is, is unashamedly going for the record. On a team filled with scorers other than him, and in such proximity to the record, he might as well. He has both the talent and the mindset.

However, he still needs huge assists from others.

While it is not the intent of this author to debate Rondo's playmaking nor shot selection skills, it is worth noting quite how much goes into obtaining even one assist. This is particularly the case when you are playing at home.

In last night's game against Orlando, Rondo passed for his customary 13 assists, an ever-important cog in a good win over quality opposition.The tone for the evening was set within the first 14 seconds, when Shaquille O'Neal made the game's first basket on the game's first possession. Rondo was credited for the assist on the play, and here is the play in question.

Decent finish. There are, however, a few problems here.

Firstly, it's an incredibly generous play on which to give an assist. Shaq took over three seconds to complete the bounce, spin-move and lay-in; regulation post feeds are not assist worthy moves. If you need three seconds, a dribble and an up-fake to get past your defender, you weren't open.

Secondly, Shaq can clearly be seen to travel in the clip. If we assume that his right foot was his intended pivot foot - it's hard to say for sure, since not even he seemed to know - then the foot can clearly be seen to move twice. Shaq shuffles his right foot on the catch, and then moves it a good 18 inches on the spin move, seemingly lifting it in the process. And if his pivot foot was actually supposed to be his left, then it's even worse; he moved that one three times.

Thirdly, O'Neal flirts with a three second violation. It probably wasn't a three second violation, and it would have been a very anal call to have made (especially in what became an otherwise very liberally called game), yet worse have been called before.

The second point can easily be accredited to bad officiating. The travel was obvious, and its oversight even more so. And the first point is even more easily chalked up to the age-old phenomena of generous home scorekeeping. It happens, we all know it happens, and it's nothing new. Everyone is the recipient of this, and Rondo is no different.

But there's a more significant problem here. No amount of generous score-keeping, hometown bias or bad officiating can overlook one slightly important thing.

It was Ray Allen who passed it to Shaq.

And so Rondo now rightfully claims the world's most generous hockey assist.

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