NBA / Sep 3, 2010 / 11:00 am

Team USA Needs Rajon Rondo

Although Team USA has rolled to a sterling 5-0 record in at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, it’s hard to feel completely comfortable with the Americans’ play. In their toughest test, a two-point victory over Brazil, the group managed just nine points in the fourth quarter. A major cause for concern has been the play in the backcourt, causing me to wonder if Team USA could have used the services of Rajon Rondo.

While no one knows the complete story surrounding Rondo’s departure from Team USA, we do know that they’re in need of him now. In retrospect, the knocks on Rondo during tryouts now seem silly. Under the assumption that Coach K understood the vast mysteries of “International Basketball” (after all, he somehow beat Spain with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Dwight Howard on the court), many went along with the belief that Rondo was just not right for FIBA play. The common criticisms justifying his departure were that he couldn’t shoot and didn’t make free throws.

Under closer examination, these criticism don’t seem consequential. Aside from Chauncey Billups, the USA guards have only shot a combined 29 free throws over five games. And despite his lack of pure shooting ability, Rondo’s stroke is not significantly worse than that of Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, the two players he was competing against for a point guard spot. (Note: In 2010, Rose shot 27 percent, Westbrook 22 percent and Rondo 21 percent from three. I’m not sure you feel the need to fly out at any of these bricklayers). Incidentally, Rondo shot the higher percentage from the field than both Rose and Westbrook.

Meanwhile, Babysitter Billups, who many regarded as an excellent selection because of his ability to play both guard positions, has served as a steadying (if unremarkable) force. His strength and savvy has gotten him to the line a team-leading 18 times, but he no longer has the jets to pressure opposing guards and has been able to knock down only four of his 19 three-point attempts. While he provides a sense of leadership coveted by USA Basketball, he’s looked as uncomfortable as almost anyone with the international game while in Turkey.

What’s so perplexing about the questioning of Rondo’s ability to excel in the FIBA setting is that Rondo is essentially a better version of Ricky Rubio. A flashy penetrator and master of the pick-and-roll, it’s hard to imagine Rondo’s vision and ability to break down defenses with sharp passing or a lighting first-step would be lost in translation.

Although international play has a reputation for being more dependent on outside shooting, the fact is that there are plenty of point guards who excel without being a deep threat. In fact, because international big men are more comfortable shooting away from the basket, it’s more important that the point guard be able to penetrate and create than make the shot himself. There are only a handful of players in the entire world that are as adept at finding driving creases and kick out angles as Rajon Rondo is.

Of the guards Team USA did select, none are averaging more than three assists per game and Rose (the starting point guard) has as many turnovers as he does assists. Aside from these recorded mistakes, Rose has consistently played with shoot-first mentality, averaging a paltry 3.5 assists/36 minutes of run. Against Brazil, Rose killed a number of fourth quarter possessions by going one-on-one (or three) instead of creating ball movement and open looks for his teammates.

Westbrook has shown better vision than Rose at times, but has operated in limited minutes. His defense and electrifying drives have been effective, but he thrives on full court mayhem rather than the organization of FIBA half court basketball. As a result, he is less of an asset in close games that slow to a snail’s pace in the fourth quarter.

Over the last week it’s become clear that the attributes Rondo has in excess – ball-handling, the ability to decipher defenses and floor leadership – are in short supply on Team USA. Regardless of the reason he was left off the team, it’s hard to justify his absence using his history as a player, or the play of his peers in Turkey.

What do you think?

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  • http://luckylester.com luckylester

    good article, sir.

  • peterbreter

    Good thoughts here…I think this will become more obvious in the knockout rounds. The turnovers and offensive mayhem seem to skyrocket when Rose is out of the game because the backup pg’s aren’t great at things pg’s should probably be good at: passing, dribbling, and managing the game.

  • beef

    very good article… now just wait for control to come here hating on Rondo again

  • WinDelRoj

    Maybe Rondo just isnt as good as some people think he is. USA is turning the ball over a lot just being lazy and not respecting the opposition.

  • Detroit Dave

    Things I have learned about Team USA:

    Coach K lied about not wanting to have 2 non shooters on the floor at the same time. I know i have seen combinations of Andre Iggy-Tyson Chandler, Rose-Westbrook line up.

    Billups spent half of his career trying to prove that he was a PG and Coach K ask him to be a 2 guard

    Eric Gordon has been there best player. It might be best for him to come off the bench only because he is the most consistant player with his scoring besides Durant.

    Stephen Curry tries to make too many difficult passes.

    Plays initiated by Russell Westbrook end in Ultimate Highlight Material or Turnover

    This team lacks a pure distributor. (Rondo)

    The Majority of these players haven’t played in any meaningful games in their career. (1st round playoff appearances don’t count for sh!t)

    Fran Frischilla keeps saying that Derrick Rose will challenge D-Will and CP3 for a 2012 roster spot as a starter…… Not as a starter bruh.

    Jerry Colangelo should waive this whole 4 year committment for Veterans and only have the young guns commit. That way you can still build around Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose but instead of Westbrook, Curry, Kevin Love he could have had cats like Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, Josh Smith on 1 year rentals.

  • Detroit Dave

    Core Players: building for the 2012 Olympics
    Kevin Durant
    Derrick Rose
    Rudy Gay
    Andre Iggy

    Fill In Player- veterans on Rental just for 1 Summer
    Jason Terry
    Josh Smith
    Caron Butler
    Mo Williams
    Marcus Camby
    Stephen Jackson
    Aaron Brooks
    Rip Hamilton
    David West
    Rashard Lewis

  • D Roc

    Didn’t they just win 5 games in a row? Turnovers happen and if coach doesn’t create plays with player movement involved rondo would be turning the ball over as well. These are preliminary games guys, when the real games start(ncaa tourney, playoffs) Rose has always turned it up a notch. If team usa ever set a high screen for any of the guards these games would be blowouts by the end of the first quarter. Chrius Paul and Deron williams also had struggles with the Ball and averaged around the same number of points and assists during the olympics.

  • Detroit Dave

    @ D Roc you have a real good point about the coach not creating plays. Their half court offense is pretty bad and I can’t say that they run many sets.

    But my question to you is, If Coach K and Colangelo selected this group of Talent what style of play did he expect to see. I think they envisioned a lot of ball pressure on Defense but if their defense doesnt create transition offense we struggle mightily and are not very efficient.


    USA have absolutely zero need for Rondo.
    The Low level of assists comes down to 3 things, Players splitting minutes at PG, the team being full of guys who can create off their own shot and Fiba being FAR stricter on what an assist is than the NBA.
    The high turnovers are just a byproduct of the players short time together, the other teams trying to force them (which teams do when they aren’t as talented) and that when your 20 points up you get complacent.
    On Defense, Rondos gambling/borderline reckless style works in Boston, but would it work in a less organized team with no one protecting the rim like KG and Perk did? i dont think so.
    then when you compare him to the other 3 pgs they did take, Rose is more talented, Westbrook is familiar with Durants game and Billups is the unquestioned leader… so who would you swap him for?

  • control


    Thanks for invite. It ain’t hating though, pretty much all of what I say is valid.

    Beckley Mason

    You write an article that is decently thought out, but you are completely wrong.

    Team usa doesn’t “need” Rondo, and Rondo has most likely burnt the bridge with team usa in the manner in which he left the team. Regardless of the truth, just based on what was said by both sides, something doesn’t add up in the way he left (or was cut). There’s something really shady there. Rondo did team usa (and the entire country of usa) dirty, straight up.

    Hey, it’s best for everyone involved that Rondo isn’t on the team. Rondo isn’t liked by teammates, and despite your arguing otherwise, his game isn’t suited to the FIBA game. He’d just be exposed, and probably cause some sort of international incident with his douchebaggyness.

    Now, a few words from your boy Plies:

    Just got Beckley I cant move
    I love Beckley, yes I do
    I get Beckley, I am glue
    Gimme Beckley, I do you
    You dont do Beckley, bye bye boo
    I love Beckley like my jewels
    You don like Beckley, you a fool
    Ima put Beckley on the news
    Beckley Beckley, shes so cool
    I aint get Beckley, I cant sleep
    I need Beckley fore I beat
    Beckley Beckley, marry me

  • J Ro

    lets face it, Rondo is not a good chemistry guy & has no shot…

  • OverPowered

    “The common criticisms justifying his departure were that he couldn’t shoot…”

    Shooting does not mean a 3 point shot. Rondo can’t consistently stick a 15-20 footer. Not saying that Rose or Westbrook has done much of that, but Rose has shown he can.

    Team USAs problem has nothing to do with guard play. No low post scorer makes everything harder.

  • Detroit Dave

    He makes and takes lay-ups. I count that as shooting.

  • me

    No one on that roster is playing like a PG.

    Rose is terrible for this team. He’s out of control, out of place and doesn’t look to play pg in any way. Dunno how he got so much praise. Love him on the bulls tho.

    Westbrook should be the guy playing SG instead of chauncey. He’s not really a PG anyway and he damn sure isn’t playing like one.

    Rondo would have been the guy preventing the scores from being so close. He’s quick but plays under control unlike westbrook/rose, and can, will, and wants to make the smart play whether it’s scoring or passing. Only willing passer I see is chauncey (not playing pg and too old) and curry (not a good enough passer yet).

  • http://www.HoopSpeak.com Beckley Mason

    Here’s a shorter poem:

    Oh Plies
    you’re making eyes
    But FYI
    I’m a guy

  • Hucklebuck

    I agree with this article. Rose and Westbrook have been okay, but they are indeed shoot first guards.
    Rondo is indeed better at the traditional point guard spot. I would rather have Rondo going one-on-one at the top of the key than Rose because Rondo will drive to the basket and either make his layup, pass it off to a big or out to a wide open shooter, or force the defense to switch that would open up offensive rebounding as opposed to the Rose/Westbrook go one-on-one and pull up while the other 4 stand still and watch.
    Rondo in the pick-n-roll is an open shot waiting to happen.
    Westbrook can play defense, Rose can’t. Rondo is just as good as Westbrook defensively.

  • Joe’s Momma

    Rondo would have been able to get into the lane. That is what the guards need to focus on. I think Rajon would have been a good fit, but there is something wrong with his attitude, I don’t know what it is, but he seems to have a chip on his shoulder when he really shouldn’t.

    But good riddence. If he don’t wanna play for USA, fk ‘em, we don’t need him. Rose does a lot of the things Rondo does anyway.

  • Hucklebuck


    Rondo is not really reckless. He for sure would not make some of the mistakes Rose and Westbrook would. And just cuz Rose can shoot the ball doesn’t make him more talented than Rondo. Rondo is just as quick, can finish just as well, is a better defender, and a better passer than Rose.
    Rondo’s defense is just as good as Westbrook’s, but he is a better passer and facilitator.
    I’d take Billups over Rondo, but it would be a coin flip with Rose or Westbrook on who I would switch Rondo for.

  • yoda

    problem with USA is not lack of rondo but lack of team play. you mentioned that billups has poor percentage for 3point. well, that is because everyone tries to play one on one instead to play some pick and rolls, screens, back cuts and all that fun stuff that makes basketball team sport. court is smaller than in nba, pain is more crowded than in nba, so its harder to penetrate for players like rose. durant is only one who can play one on one with ease because he’s taller and faster than guy who’s guarding him.
    until this team starts to play like a unit instead of and1 ball, you can’t never be sure that they will win for sure. 2002. squad is best example of that….

  • JD

    Rondo was the only pass-first point guard (or player for that matter) trying out for a team full of good-great scorers. Rondo understands where the ball needs to go in certain situations that Rose and Westbrook just don’t have the bball IQ yet to decipher.
    The first round, full of bad-mediocre teams (and one good team in Brazil) isn’t going to show us much of anything. But we’ll see what they are made of in the round of 16, for sure.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    the more I see Team USA, the more I think of Kahn’s vision in assembling a team, just trade and draft for as many PG’s and wings as possible, throw in K. Love and 2 nonexistent bigs (Milicic and Petrovic)

  • Chris

    It’s ironic, when he was cut everyone knew we were waiving a guard with the best court vision & setup abilities on the squad. But Team USA kind of sold it as no big deal because we would be about the team play ish. Well it turns out that it really would be nice to have a great lead guard with superior court vision, who by the way is one of the most clever players in the world with championship experience. People who say his game wouldn’t translate probably praise Rubio too when their games are almost the same.

    No they don’t need Rondo, they need a real complete starter worthy post player. But Rondo does not make our half court offense any more dreadful than it looks at time. He could have been a facilitator.

  • mrhadoken

    i dont even like rondo but i’m convinced that if rondo were starting on this team instead of rose they’d be killing. how many floaters has rose missed? i doubt they will but i wont be surprised if this team fails to win gold. most of the time the guys are just jacking nelly ball style and aren’t even trying to run an offense.

  • http://msnhotmail.com bmays

    i really think the whole problem is that when it all boils down to is these guys really needed more time to practice and get comfortable with each others game, these are some very good guys and are very humble, they could have all decided to enjoy their summers off but they choose to play for our country so instead of tearing them down how about we support them. now as far as rondo i think rondo was a little bit more than this team could handle, when you play with rondo you really have to pay him some attention, he is very quick, and he is very good at passing, i noticed that when they played lithuania a couple of his turnovers were do to guys not paying him any attention, you know rondo could be looking at ray allen but will pass the ball to perkins. rondo has been playing with vets his whole career, he plays like hes a vet, i dont think these young guys had enough time to learn his play.

  • bob

    @ joe’s momma,

    I think this is what you meant to say.

    Rose does very little of the lots of things Rondo does.

    And btw, billups should be starting at pg with gordon starting at sg.

    curry and westbrook should be the first two off the bench.

    Rose should spend the game the majority, if not all of the game explaining to to granger how to become overhyped.

  • pace

    id rather had rondo up than curry. but Rose’s jumper is much better than russy and rondo’s forreal.

  • http://None NYC

    We’ll never know what rally happened with Rondo and Coach K. But how do you go from a starter to off the team, when you don’t even play the last two games to prove yourself before the cut off deadline? Don’t know.

    But I’m not going to prematurely pick doom for this team. But I did feel it was a mistake at the time not choosing Rondo (despite the US lack of size upfront), while counting on the US one on one ability to win tough elimination round games with three guards that can’t pass (Westbrook, Rose, Gordon). Rose and Westbrook, are too many times out of control, miss open cutters and in Rose’s case, consistently get beat on defense like a mule/drum, so his/their offense (or what ever of its there at the time) really doesn’t matter many times.

    It seems Coach K overreacted (if he did even make/initiate that decision) in accessing Westbrook, Gordon, Curry and Rose for this team. There was a reason he had chose Rondo as the starter and Rose as the back up. What happenned?

    If the Brazil game is any indication, Team USA will struggle in close, tight games for their offense. Hopefully, that will be enough to still win it.

    And speaking about overreacting. That Lithuania team that Coach K supposedly freaked out about with Rondo (cause we had a slow start, though we won by 17 points and every other guard had a bad game besides Westbrook), is probably the only undefeated team at the FIBA tournament (whether Spain, Greece, Argentina or any other team was holding back or not). They were a tough scrappy team! Another obvious mis-assessment by Coach K.

    Oh well. Let’s see what happens.

    And I agree with the above poster. Rondo’s more talented than Rose.

    He’s quicker; just as fast, better ball handler, passer, penetrator (especially on the pick and roll), much higher basketball IQ, leaps as well, has a innate skill in avoiding contact on the break, or driving to the basket; but Rondo’s still longer with bigger hands. Rose shoots the intermediate shot better and is willing to take more contact regularly on the drive.

    But yes; Rondo’s overall game is more talented.

  • http://None NYC

    Hey Bob I agree.

    I have not been that impressed with Rose, the same way I wasn’t in the friendly’s before.

    I think Gordon has been consistently the best player along with Durant on this team (and Durant had some really sucky games earlier). Westbrook and Curry have had their moments as well.

    Fran Fraschilla is just one of those guys that love Rose and Love is blind sometimes. He’s see’s no mistakes or bad play from Rose and appears so blind sometimes.

    The best guards on this team have been (in order) Gordon/Billups, Westbrook, Curry, Rose.

    Rose looks lost most times out there. Westbrook is hit or miss. Curry looks over-matched sometimes, but he tries. Billups and Gordons’ sometimes have off nights on their shot; but they still drive to the hoop.

    Rose, has been playing more like a off guard looking for his shot first, than a real point guard so far.

    Let’s hope Team USA doesn’t have another game/opposition like the Brazil game in the elimination round. I’m not sure how well Rose and Rondo will/would hold up?

  • http://None NYC

    I meant Rose and Westbrook on that last line above. Lol.

  • K Dizzle

    LMAO @ post 15

    but for reaql tho, OJ Mayo coulda brought more to this squad…as well as McGee

  • http://www.jayhealthycoffee.com Jai

    I swear after Curry gets thru with this season with the Warriors everybody’s gonna look back in retrospect and wonder why he didn’t play more. This is a guarantee: Curry will have a monster 2nd season. Print it!

  • http://freshnproper.com Q

    Gotta disagree man. Those fourth quarter dribbling sequences by Rose not only won them the game, but were not solely his fault. No one on the team moves the ball or moves without the ball.

    As far as shooting, Rose’s shot has improved drastically, and Westbrook has knocked a few nice mid-range jumpers. Rondo on the other never pulls it, period. Westbrook has also show himself to be WAY more explosive than Rondo, which is why he’s been so effective against zones.

    If Rondo’s shooting percentage was higher during the season, it’s because he shoots all lay-ups.

    On Billups, he’s been the worst guard other than Stephon Curry. You mention him getting to the line a lot, which he has, but — and I’m not checking his stats — he’s missed quite a bit of those attempts, and his outside shooting has been shaky, as well.

    If Rondo was on the team, I can’t imagine him even being in the game down the stretch because he’s not going to be an offensive threat in a game that’s played strictly in the half-court, and those strategic foreign teams would put him on the line every time.

  • http://freshnproper.com Q

    Gotta disagree man. Those fourth quarter dribbling sequences by Rose not only won them the game, but were not solely his fault. No one on the team moves the ball or moves without the ball.

    As far as shooting, Rose’s shot has improved drastically, and Westbrook has knocked a few nice mid-range jumpers. Rondo on the other never pulls it, period. Westbrook has also show himself to be WAY more explosive than Rondo, which is why he’s been so effective against zones.

    If Rondo’s shooting percentage was higher during the season, it’s because he shoots all lay-ups.

    On Billups, he’s been the worst guard other than Stephon Curry. You mention him getting to the line a lot, which he has, but — and I’m not checking his stats — he’s missed quite a bit of those attempts, and his outside shooting has been shaky, as well.

    If Rondo was on the team, I can’t imagine him even being in the game down the stretch because he’s not going to be an offensive threat in a game that’s played strictly in the half-court, and those strategic foreign teams would put him on the line every time.

    (And I can’t believe someone said Steph Curry has been playing better than D. Rose. Thats just erroneous.)

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    I just came here to see Control’s post and buddy never lets me down! lmfao@ the plies reference. Good one.

    @the aurthur and everyone supporting Rondo

    I’m not going to sit here and talk about how terrible Rondo is. That’s pointless now. I would like to see the numbers of Pg’s that are killing it by you all feel are killing it from all of the FIBA games. Then I want you to show me what all of the Team USA PG’s have done in the past numbers wise that shows them “killing it”.

    I want to see what the expectations are.

  • Seamus

    Great article. This is essentially the reason why the US won’t win at these championships. When they play full court man to man D, or even just 1-3-1, or man on man, Rose and Westbrook are not as active as Rondo going for steals and putting pressure on the ball. However, Rondo has developed this largely due to KG’s influence.

    In terms of sharing the ball, Rondo would have been the best at these championships by a long shot. Mark my words he’ll lead the league in assists this year. Especially when you have Jermaine and Shaq playing the big, who are no doubt better in the pick and roll that Perkins and are also better finsishers around the basket.

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla


    did you just write that Shaq and JO are good at the pick-n-roll?

    This is why you guys have no credibility on this site. You make outrageous comments with nothing to back them up at all.

    For instance, people are saying Rose is hyped because he’s playing in Chicago. Wrong. Here is why. When DStern and his machine want to hype someone, they make sure certain things happen for that player and their team.

    #1 that player will shoot a ton of FTs and will always get the 50/50 call to go their way.

    #2 That players team will always get the 50/50 call and will win close games and will rarely lose to lesser teams.

    Neither of these happen for Rose or the Bulls. For someone who drives the lane as much as he does and receives as much contact as he does, he rarely is at the FT line (4.3 FTA per game in 37min per game) for someone who has the ball as much as Rose does being the main ballhandler in Chicago and only scoring threat. Yet somehow he still managed nearly 21 ppg! perhaps because he is a great finisher around the basket and knows how to finish with contact and make difficult shots.

    I will give you guys this, Rose isn’t the traditional PG. He still has to learn how to play the PG spot correctly. I will also say I’m not impressed with ANYONE on team USA except for Steph Curry, Gordon, and K.Love. Other than those guys its been kinda boring watching them. But I do like to see how Rose plays with actual talent around him and hoping that he can bring some of that back to Chicago.

  • Lily

    Great article!

    Instead of keeping Rajon Rondo, Team USA is stuck with the likes of Stephen Curry, who amounts to a Rondo wannabe. He has attempted so many Rondo-esque behind-the-back passes… and failed miserably! Rondo would’ve nailed those passes, because he’s Rondo. But Curry simply doesn’t have the same ball-handling skills. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to know it.

    Team USA’s weaknesses are due to the fact that they don’t have a true facilitator. In Rondo, they would’ve had a true facilitator (someone who could create plays out of nothing – excellent passer, ball-handler and defense man) who knows how to handle big pressure situations. As Team USA enters the knockout round at the worlds, I could see them totally imploding. In such an event, I guess Rondo would have the last laugh!

  • hooper5013

    If Steph Curry wasn’t on such a ridiculously short leash, this team would be much better. He is the best guard on the roster. He is going to dominate this year at the point guard position. I think by year three he will be the 2nd best PG in the NBA behind Deron Williams. Also it’s absolutely ridiculous that OJ Mayo got cut from the squad. Eric Gordon is playing out of his mind also. I knew he had it in him. Does anybody else see the eerie resemblance to Mitch Richmond in Gordon’s game? Chauncey doesn’t belong on this team. And if I hear Fran say D.Rose is better than Deron Williams one more time I might slap the shit out of him. Kevin Durant is going to be special.

    2012 roster should look like so

    Deron Williams Stephon Curry Chris Paul
    Dwayne Wade OJ Mayo Brandon Roy
    LeBron James Kevin Durant Joe Johnson
    Chris Bosh Amare Staudemire Carmelo Anthony
    Dwight Howard* Tyson Chandler Andrew Bynum

    Pick the three you wanna take away

    As long as the starting 5 looks like

    Deron Williams
    Kevin Durant
    Lebron James
    Carmelo Anthony
    Dwight Howard

  • http://None NYC

    Kevin Durant will not start at off guard over D Wade, I can tell you that. And there’s no way in hell Tyson Chandler makes the 2012 Olympic team as well.

    And neither will Stephen Curry, based off of his play on this team. He’s been horrible. And I like him and think he has a lot of potential.

    That other point guard your mentioning will be Rajon Rondo (if he or Coach K wants to play), others I can’t remember or someone else from the 2008 Olympic team.

    I don’t think John Wall or D. Rose (Coach K man crush on him, despite his lack of production or not) will make the 2012 Olympic team (unless they have some stellar regular seasons).

  • http://freshnproper.com Q

    Looks like they’re really missing Rondo huh