It started awkwardly. Rajon Rondo looked the part of a first-time color analyst before Monday night’s Celtics-Bulls game. Someone on Comcast’s staff must have told Rondo to look at the camera, because the Celtics point guard didn’t disappoint in that department. If you wanted Rondo to smile more, you got plenty of cheese in the first 45 seconds of the broadcast.
As stiff as he was during the on-camera standup, Rondo — who was sitting out the back-to-back vs. the Bulls — came into his own as the game went along. It didn’t appear like a good idea at first. It took three questions from Celtics play-by-play man extraordinaire Mike Gorman for Rondo to offer a comment on teammate Kris Humphries.
“I didn’t know Kris was as good a shooter as he was,” Rondo said after Gorman’s second prompt. Gorman’s third question brought out: “He’s definitely a great professional. He wasn’t playing a lot at the beginning of the season but he stays working.”
For virtually the entire first quarter, it was as if Rondo didn’t know he could speak without being prompted by Gorman. That led to Gorman conducting what was essentially an interview with the Celtics guard.
“I’m almost at 100 percent,” Rondo answered in response to a question, which makes you wonder why he’s sitting out games if the Celtics were trying to win as many as they could. “I’m feeling great. Each game I’m getting stronger, my endurance is getting better.”
As the game went on and the Celtics started playing better, Rondo also improved. He offered honest takes on several plays, just like your buddy would sitting next to you in a bar.
“Tough shot” Rondo offered after Jeff Green drove to the baseline and spun on Kirk Hinrich before putting up a contested shot.
“I love playing against Hinrich,”said Rondo. “Whatever the coach asks of him he’s pretty much going to do it for you.”
Rondo, of course, didn’t reveal everything.
Rondo cited how Hinrich was assigned to check him and Ray in the playoffs. Left out the part when they threw fists
— Jay O (@MrTrpleDouble10) April 1, 2014
Asked more about Hinrich later, Rondo elaborated insightfully, “He’s one of the most physical guards we have in our game.”
“Really?” Gorman asked. Rondo responded, “Yes. He’s stronger than he looks.”
Rondo offered similar insights to teammate Green, whom he called the Celtics’ most athletic player, as well as Chris Johnson.
“He’s a very confident player,” Rondo said of Johnson. “A couple days ago we were playing the Toronto Raptors and I said, ‘Do you want me to check [DeMar] DeRozan?’ and he said, ‘No way.'”
Later, Rondo offered a great breakdown of how the Celtics freed Kelly Olynyk up for a jump shot.
“Brad [Stevens] knows Chicago likes to tag on the cut,” said Rondo. “When the weak side guy cuts backdoor, Taj Gibson tags, and that left Kelly Olynyk wide open for the J.”
When the Celtics ran the same play the next trip down the floor, Rondo identified it.
Near the end of his two-quarter stint, Rondo offered great insight into his rivalry with Bulls center Joakim Noah. The two have been facing each other for almost 10 years.
“About two years ago we came to an understanding, because we were always going at each other and we didn’t understand why,” said Rondo. “I think it’s because we both love to compete.
One game we were at the free throw line and we were like, ‘Why do we even go at each other?'”
At the end of their time together, the always professional Gorman seemed sad to see Rondo leave.
“We were just gettin good,” he said.