Strong point (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday December 12, 2007 4:10PM; Updated: Wednesday December 12, 2007 4:47PM
"I don't know if we had him statistically rated No. 1, but he was in the top 4-5 statistically,'' Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. "I'm a fan of Tubby Smith [who coached Rondo at Kentucky], and I could understand why they didn't get along really well, because they moved him to the '2' guard in a passing-game offense.'' That role emphasized Rondo's deficiencies as a shooter.
"But one stat that was coming out with Rajon was that he gets every loose ball, he gets his hands on everything, he's rebounding and he's doing things that are a little bit unusual for the guard position, and those things traditionally translate into good NBA players," Ainge said.
"Then you have people who say, 'How many players have ever been good in the NBA that shot 58 percent from the free throw line in college?' But you can come up with a long list of guys like Gary Payton and Baron Davis, because if you think about the guys that don't shoot the free throws good but are being considered to be drafted high, they must have some special skill or they must be so athletically gifted that they do so many things to compensate for that poor shooting. Those are guys who find ways to make it in our league.''
Rondo has made two big changes in his shooting. He has renounced three-pointers as if they were saturated fats; he hasn't attempted a single three after going a senseless 6-for-29 (20.7 percent) from beyond the arc last year. He has also focused on elevating for his jump shot even though many of his attempts are uncontested as the defenses focus on Boston's three stars. Rondo tries to jump to the same height to develop consistency.
But another NBA scout notes that Rondo tends to aim his jumper in the fourth quarter after appearing to shoot with confidence in the opening periods. He is converting only 48.5 percent from the free throw line, which also speaks to his confidence under pressure.
It all comes back to the original point. He can't be expected to have confidence in his shooting -- in his decisions to shoot -- until he is comfortable as the young leader of an elderly team. As rapidly as he is improving, he can't be expected to feel comfortable 19 games into the season. The real question is whether he can earn sufficient confidence over the next four months heading into the playoffs.
"Rajon is going to be the guy that gets the knocks all year, him and [starting center Kendrick Perkins], because you're not going to knock the other three,'' Rivers said. "And so we've talked about that, that it's never going to stop. And that's fine. I told Rajon, 'Hey listen, there's nothing wrong with proving yourself. They're not going to give it to you, and you don't want it that way anyway.' And during the playoffs the defense will key on him more, and we know that too, and he'll be more prepared for it by the end of the year.''
The questions and pressures will help Rondo's confidence as he continues to succeed despite them. With no true point guard backing him up and no other player capable of replicating the easy baskets he creates in transition, he may be the second-most-valuable Celtic after Garnett.
"No excuse,'' Garnett said of Rondo's age. "You're thrown in that position for a reason, and if Doc didn't believe in him or thought he was too young to have it, he wouldn't be put in that position. He earned it. He busted his ass and worked for it, and I have to remind him of that, that this was wasn't given to you. You worked for this, so embrace it. You're going to make mistakes, but try to better yourself. And Rondo's done all of that, man.''
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