August 17, 2011
Shaquille O'Neal(notes) is blaming President Barack Obama for his role in Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo's(notes) late-season shooting woes. And, well ... what? Shaq's blaming the president? What does he have to do with Rajon Rondo?
As is usually the case for sitting U.S. presidents, Barack Obama has been blamed for his fair share of his country's misfortunes. Whether it's deserved or not, the buck stops with him, and anything from the escalating cost of wars to a massive deficit to the increase in price of frozen tilapia will result in an impassioned rant from the voting public. Or the non-voting public, even.
But to blame the guy for Rajon Rondo shooting like, well, Rajon Rondo?
SLAM's Tzvi Twersky came through with a heck of a scoop in locating a sample from O'Neal's latest book. And while Shaq usually errs (read: benefits) on the side of self-promotion, he spins a good enough yarn to keep us reading, clicking, and buying whatever tale he wants to tell that day.
In early March some of the guys went to the museum of Fine Arts for a fund-raiser and got to hang with President Barack Obama. Everyone was a little bit in awe. The President turns to Ray [Allen], points at Rondo, and says, "Hey, Ray, why don't you teach this kid how to shoot?" Everyone starts laughing.
KG told me he saw the look on Rondo's face and the kid was devastated, embarrassed. Dissed by the President, even though I'm sure Obama didn't mean any harm. Rondo smiled and went along with all of it, but KG told me he could see it in his eyes. It bothered Rondo. It killed him.
The next day Rondo shot the ball horribly. He stopped taking shots after that. He's so sensitive. I think it was a real jolt to hear the outside perception of a basketball fan who happens to be the President of the United States. It messed with his mind. I'm sure of it.
Like all apocryphal tales, even if they turn out to be true, there's enough truth in the guesswork to keep the ideal in place.
Rondo can't shoot. That knowledge spreads across all party lines. But he was able to maintain a sound shooting percentage with his drives and interior finishes throughout the first half of 2010-11.
This included 54 percent shooting in November, 58 percent in December, 50 in January, and 48 percent shooting in February. Then came the early March visit with the president. Rondo shot 41 percent in March and 40 percent in April.
Again, all this could be another attention-grab from O'Neal, who was famously declined unannounced access to the White House earlier this year. Rondo looked noticeably less aggressive and/or enthusiastic as the season moved along, but can we blame this on a quip from the president?
Well, of course we can. Athletes take in constant streams of ribbing for just about every day during their amateur or professional career from friends, fans, opponents, and especially teammates. But a respected president's zing? That might get to a guy.
Still, to borrow a useless phrase that never did anyone any good, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, Rajon. And get your elbow under the ball when you shoot. Once it heals, of course.
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