|Posted on August 28, 2011 at 2:15 PM|
On a Celtics team choked with iconic players, a new icon is brewing in front of our eyes. If The Trade was Danny Ainge's worst moment since (not) biting Tree Rollins, trading for Rajon Rondo and having the vision to believe in this strange kid may have been his best.
A lot of people seem to find Rondo difficult to understand. When he passes up a shot to pass, folks seem to misinterpret. Some think it means that Rondo is afraid to shoot. Others think it means that he is hungry for stats. It's rare for people to understand that Rondo has a way of thinking about basketball that is different from most players. In my opinion, he sees the game the same way Russell did. He understands that 90% of the game of basketball is not scoring, and that the ultimate measure of a player's greatness is really the accomplishments of other players on his team. I think this is why we have so often seen Rondo give the ball up to Ray Ray at the end of an undefended fast break; it could be to pad his assist stats, but more likely it's to make a point. Most of us learned our basketball on playgrounds where passing the ball was a sign of weakness, an admission of failure. Rondo's out to change that perception.
Famously, Rondo originally wanted to be a football quarterback, and still thinks like a quarterback today. As a good quarterback should, he reportedly studies film assiduously. Apparently he likes to know his opponents better than they know themselves.
I find it strange that many fans seem to doubt that Rondo will achieve excellence as a shooter. What Nick Gelso said in 2009 is more true today:
"The NBA has been blessed with some beautiful shot form’s over the years. The Association has also had it’s share of ugly, non traditional shooting forms. Bill Cartwright’s scary, alien-like shot comes to mind, Robert Parish’s high arching “tee it up” type shot, though deadly, will never appear in text book’s either. Joakim Noah’s contorted shooting form may only appear in instructional DVD’s displaying what not to do when shooting. Dare I cite Magic Johnson’s shot. Magic’s shot was never very pretty and during his first eight seasons he was unreliable in hitting the perimeter stroke.
I am just citing a few examples of the many unsightly shots over the year’s. None of these players have had their shooting form analyzed as much as we have seen with the Celtics point guard the past three seasons.
In all my year’s of following professional basketball, I have never seen a player’s shot more scrutinized then Rajon Rondo’s."
Rondo, in the same article, says:
"“It’s part of basketball; you are not going to be great at everything,’’ he said. “Even Mike [Michael Jordan] wasn’t great at everything. I’m only 23, I am going to keep getting better, that’s how I look at it. I am going to keep working. I believe in myself. I want to go to the free throw line. I want to take the jump shot. When I don’t shoot my shot, I feel like I am cheating myself because I feel like no one can stop me from getting to the basket.’’"
So why isn't Rondo an elite shooter by now, if he's been determined to get better all along? I think it's because improving other areas of his game has taken precedence. Rondo's shooting simply hasn't been the area of development that mattered the most to him, because, frankly, the Celtics have plenty of shooters. I think that Rondo's shot will take a quantum leap when he gets determined to do it, and that will happen when he sees it as the urgent priority. We all hope that time is now. I think it IS now, and that next year will be the year that Rondo's scoring and shooting steps up significantly. I feel sure that he knows it is time to take the next step.
I'm less worried about Rondo's shooting than I am about his inconsistency. I think a lot of his inconsistency last year was due to injuries, and a lot of it was caused by The Trade, but sometimes I wonder how much of it is sort of built into his game: a lot of Rondo's game is built around the principle of deception. I once saw a video where Rondo is asked what superhero he would like to be, and he answered something like The Invisible Man. That makes sense. He loves to appear from nowhere and make a play. Like Rodman, he likes to lull the opposition into forgetting that he is there. I think this makes it hard for him to step up into the leadership role as assertively and consistently as we would like to see.
What does The Invisible Man do when the spotlight is constantly on him?
To me, this is the big question that Rondo has to answer. The issue isn't his shooting. That will come when the time is right. The real question is how does the guy who is used to jumping into the spotlight when it's least expected become the guy who lives in the spotlight?
As regards his shooting, it seems, even with his difficulties last year, he really is getting better:
* For all the hand-wringing about Rondo's jumper, it's worth pointing out that he shot 41 percent from 16-to-23 feet this past season (up 8 percent from the previous year, and he attempted a career-high 3.3 attempts per game from that range). Yes, Rondo graded out as merely "average" among jump shooters, according to Synergy Sports. He was 100-of-260 shooting (38.5 percent) on all half-court jump shots last season. But zoom in closer and he graded out as "good" from 17 feet to the 3-point line, connecting on 67-of-162 attempts (41.4 percent). Dial it back to the 2009-10 season and Rondo was 91-of-272 (33.5 percent) on all jumpers, while connecting on just 48-of-134 shots from 17 feet to the 3-point line (35.8 percent) showing some decent improvement last year.