Rajon Rondo: Under The Microscope

The only weakness in Rondo's game is his free throws.

The only weakness in Rondo's game was his hesitation to shoot.

Courtesy of North Station Sports

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 dis 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. Yesterday we looked at his recent improvements and how this will effect opponent’s preparations when facing the C’s. Today the Globe is featuring another similar story on the subject.

Since taking on the role of floor general for the team with (arguably) the best starting line-up in basketball, Rondo’s shortcomings have always been a topic of scrutiny. His inability to not only hit the open outside shot but also his lack of confidence in attempting them when wide open has been listed as one of the (few) weaknesses the Celtics have. I would often find myself screaming at my plasma, “shoot it,” as Rondo would continually pass up the open shot, often leaving the Celtics with a lower percentage shot and, many times, a turnover. Playing into the hands of their opponents, nothing seemed to remedy this act of repeated half court breakdown caused by Rondo’s refusal to shoot when wide open.

It was obvious the young point guard did everything in his power to correct his shooting woes. His shooting form took headline over his refusal to shoot the open shot as fundamentalist’s took over the analysis, focusing less on confidence and more on technique. Rondo, acknowledging that his shot was not fluid in form, worked with Mark Price this summer to correct his form and the media wide microscope honed in closer on the point guards shot, looking for any signs of improvement.

The spotlight focused in on Rondo during training camp, tightened by the praise of teammates as the squad’s most improved player. Expectations were high as the season tipped off. The results were dismal. Rondo shot an appalling percentage from the free throw line during the season’s opening weeks of November. His hesitance or plain refusal to shoot outside shots began to tear apart the offensive effectiveness of the team during a rough stretch to close out the first full month of the season.

Ten consecutive wins later, Rajon looks like a new player. What a difference a large win streak and a little confidence can make as he is averaging 13.1 points and 9.8 assists, with 51 percent shooting from the field and 71 percent from the line over the last nine games. With Rondo’s improvements, opposing team’s must start to re-thing their philosophy of daring the unproven shooter outside of 15 feet.

From the Boston Globe:

Weeks ago there was hesitation. Rondo would pause before taking a jumper and then either force the shot or attempt an acrobatic drive. That is no longer the case.

“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.’’

Rondo was stubborn about acknowledging he needed to work on his offensive game. He just kept quiet and kept working and now those concerns about his shooting have dissolved.

“It’s great where he is at mentally, he understands our team,’’ Rivers said. “If we come down and take three or four shots without running the offense, he’ll slow us down and get us in a set. That’s the sign of a great point guard. He’s become a leader on our team and I think that’s the step he’s taken this year. Our guys now want to follow him and that’s huge when your point guard is your leader.’’

Coach Doc Rivers has been pushing his point guard to shoot more. First, the more Rondo shoots, the more confidence he gets. Second, the more he draws defenders, the more he can drive past them for a dish to a teammate or layup.

“I’m taking [the jumper] more. I am getting it with the shot clock running, trying not to settle for the jump shot, [but] I don’t mind taking it at all,’’ he said. “I just try to be efficient as much as possible. Teams are giving me the shot and I am taking it this year and I think that’s the only difference. I have more freedom. I don’t know what it is, I am just shooting it.’’

I know what it is Rajon! It’s confidence. You hit a few in a row and you start to feel you can hit them all. The more you think you can hit them all, the more frequently you will attempt them. The more shots launched allows you to see that if you miss 5 or 6 out of 10 attempts, you become dangerous because now they have to guard you!

There is no doubt that Rondo has a lot of proving to do before team’s stop laying off him. His stubbornness is pretty famous in Boston and he will never admit that he ever lacked the confidence to make (or attempt) perimeter shots. He can continue to deny it but television coverage of every game and when the scrutiny of the media has honed in, it makes it difficult to deny the look of frustrations and uncertainty that over-took his face as he launched repeated ugly attempts from the free throw line in November.

Do we focus too much on Rondo’s shooting?


During the Celtics recent run, Rondo has gained his confidence to shoot more.

Absolutely not! With how much is riding on the young man’s successes, I can never get enough of reading reports on his progression. The Celtics are a few outside percentage points and a solid dose of long term confidence away from possessing a fourth superstar on their roster. No team can boast four superstar players on their team– Don’t even try to say it Lakers fans!

We get another opportunity to put on the magnifying glasses tonight against Memphis but, for now, all I can say is…

11-1 on the road, 10 game win streak, Rondo hitting jumpers, KG back to normal, 20,000 for Ray, Rasheed in the post, first place in the East…

…and a partidge in a pear tree!

Nick Gelso covers the Boston Celtics and NBA for Boston Sports Then and Now. You can check out more of his great work on his blog: North Station Sports.

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