Longform

The Phoenix Suns Are Attempting to Reinvent the Game, but Without a Major Star, They're Mired in the Middle of the NBA

The young basketball scout was embarking on one of his first big assignments.

Ryan McDonough, 24, was visiting the Washington, D.C. area to see the Michael Jordan Classic, in which top prep stars (who then could go directly to the pros) would be scrutinized by NBA decision-makers. He was accompanied by an elderly gentleman with decades of experience in these talent searches.

The big names at the Classic included Dwight Howard, the nation's top prep star who would become the number one pick in the draft, plus forward Al Jefferson and guard Sebastian Telfair. But the older scout also liked a skinny guard with huge hands, a player who couldn't shoot but had terrific court vision.

McDonough noticed the relatively obscure Rajon Rondo, too, so he picked the brain of his Boston Celtics colleague, who merely was the winningest figure in the history of American pro sports, the iconic Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach. The result was the acquisition of Rondo (in a draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns), who went on to help lead the Celtics to the 2008 championship.

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Michael Tulumello