The Potential Interpretations Of Rondo’s Shoving Match

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Celtics guard Rajon Rondo was suspended for two games Thursday for a skirmish in Wednesday night's game. Only A Game's Bill Littlefield shares his thoughts.

The Celtics' Rajon Rondo walks off the court after being ejected in the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
The Celtics' Rajon Rondo walks off the court after being ejected in the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

"If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs," as Rudyard Kipling said, well, then you're not Rajon Rondo, who sometimes keeps his head and sometimes doesn't. On Wednesday night he didn’t, with various consequences.

In the short run, the Celtics, a .500 team in the early going this season, lost Rondo for the remainder of the game against the Nets, which the Nets won. How much Rondo's absence due to suspension will hinder this team that's still trying to find itself remains to be seen. It won't help.

The ejection also derailed what had begun to look like Rondo's inevitable ascent to the top of the assist heap. He seemed on the brink of piling up more consecutive games with 10 or more assists than John Stockton and, shortly thereafter, Magic Johnson. This would have meant no little and quite some to the people who value individual statistics in this particular team game, and not a lot to people like, oh, say the late Red Auerbach, who was famously grumpy about any individual's numbers and spectacularly successful at assembling winning teams.

The potential interpretations of the specific circumstances of Rondo's shoving match number at least two. Some fans will contend that Rondo was coming to the defense of Kevin Garnett, who had sustained a hard foul from Chris Humphries. Those fans may regard Rondo as a team player, since he was battling on behalf of a teammate. Others will maintain that Garnett, who stands 6-11 and weighs 253 pounds, was reasonably well equipped to defend himself without the assistance of Rondo, who goes 6-1 and about 180, and that Rondo's outburst was ill-considered, to the extent that it was considered at all.

One of the intriguing aspects of Wednesday night's playground confrontation was the way the crowd responded. Rondo's shoving of Humphries provoked a lusty roar, which soon developed into a chant. Most confrontations between players during basketball games don't do much harm. Humphries displayed some scratches after the game. They that looked as if they might have been inflicted upon him by an irritated cat. Fans know that mid-game scuffles between NBA players generally get broken up quickly and amount to very little. Yet Wednesday's crowd seemed to be fired up for more, almost as if they expected the officials to stand back and let the two parties battle like NHL players. I wonder if that's because so far this season, there have been no Bruins, big, bad or otherwise, for whom to scream?

This program aired on November 29, 2012.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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