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Inside the Game: Rajon Rondo and the art of passing

01.12.10 at 11:58 pm ET
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Last week, Rajon Rondo helped pull off one of the most memorable plays of this season ‘€” an inbound lob from Paul Pierce with 0.6 seconds left that Rondo converted for a basket to force overtime against the Heat. The scheme worked because Rondo was the most unsuspecting target on two fronts: Not only was he the smallest player on the court for the Celtics, he usually is the guy dishing, not receiving.

Rondo considers his passing skills to be a natural ability. He didn’t grow up studying point guards. He didn’t even grow up watching basketball at all. Finding the open man was just something that came to him on the court.

‘€œI don’t know if it’s a skill. Maybe it’s just natural,’€ he said. ‘€œI think it’s just like a natural feel for the game. I pride myself on making guys better, so I would rather do that than score the ball.’€

Rondo set the school records for most assists in a single game (31) and season (494) at Oak Hill Academy in 2004. He went on to lead the SEC in dimes (4.9 APG) as a sophomore at the University of Kentucky.

Now in his fourth season with the Celtics, Rondo is seeing the court better than ever before. He leads the Eastern Conference with 9.6 assists per game and ranks fourth among all players ‘€” behind only Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. He has already recorded 336 assists in his first 35 games of the season, closing in on his mark of 393 from the 2008 championship campaign and more than half-way to last season’s tally of 659. (The Celtics currently rank second in the league with 23.83 assists per game.)

As part of WEEI.com’€™s ‘€œInside the Game’€ series with the Celtics, Rondo talked no-look assists, alley-oops with Kevin Garnett, the impact of Ubuntu, and the art of passing:

Wait for it: Identifying who is open is only half the battle. The key is knowing when to dish it.
‘€œIt just depends on the defense, where he’s at on the court. You can’t really predetermine when to make the pass. It just has to be like a natural instinct. Sometimes you can try to predetermine and it can go either way. It can be a turnover or it can be a good pass. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to make the decision at a certain time.’€

No formula for the no-look: Rondo has a way of baffling his defenders by making the pass they least expect.
‘€œMaybe just practice, try [no-look passes] every once in a while. But not now. You try to be solid and not make the home run pass, but it’s just natural for me. I don’t really try to do it to get the oohs and the ahhs. It’s the play I feel I need to make at the time. I may not be able to make the simple pass and it has to be the trickery bounce pass or the no-look pass to confuse the defense.’€

Dynamic dunking duo: The chemistry on the court between Rondo and Kevin Garnett makes alley-oops look effortless. But as Rondo explains, it takes a certain kind of player to pull off the dunk.
‘€œEverybody can’t do it. There are guys in the league that can do it, but it may be four or five things ‘€” you’ve got to have the athleticism, perceptiveness, the setup, knowing when to do it, you’ve got to be a good player. Part of the reason why [Garnett] gets so many lobs is because people fear him getting the ball. If he gets the ball, he’s going to score, so they try to deny him the ball. He has great coordination, great timing. When he spins out, he loses track of the ball, so after he turns around he has to go up and find the ball and then find the rim. It’s not as easy as it looks. He does a great job at it.’€

Passing off the credit: Rondo draws a direct correlation between his stats and his teammates’ offensive performances. The Celtics are ranked second in the league in field goal percentage (48.7 percent) this season, helping Rondo rack up the assists.
‘€œYou know what’s different? Guys like Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, they’re making shots. It’s pretty simple. I may be making a couple better plays, my assist-to-turnover ratio, but other than that, guys are making shots. [Kendrick Perkins] is shooting at a high level, KG is shooting at a high level, Paul went 100 percent from the 3 (twice in December). Guys are making shots. Not that we didn’t in years before, but this time I’ve got to give them all the credit, really. Without them making shots, there’s no assists.’€

Ubuntu = APG: He may only be 23, but Rondo learned an important lesson early in his career. Now he wants to share that with his younger fans.
‘€œI think that stands out the most on the court’€” unselfishness. It’s not necessarily ballhandling, it’s being unselfish for your teammates, sacrificing for your teammates. My situation is me giving up the ball to make somebody better. KG and Perk just defensively helping out when I may get beat off the dribble, their unselfishness just to come over and help makes me look better or maybe not look as bad as I was on defense. So, for a team to be a great team, I think you have to have a lot of people sacrifice a lot of things. We had the Big Three that came in, all leading their teams in scoring, they all had to sacrifice shots. They all did a great job of it. It’s not just me. It’s the whole team. It’s the whole team concept. That’s where Ubuntu comes in. I can go on and on about it.’€

PREVIOUS ENTRIES

Inside the Game: Shelden Williams and the art of rebounding

Inside the Game: Paul Pierce and the art of versatility

Inside the Game: Kendrick Perkins on the art of shot-blocking

Read More: Boston Celtics, inside the game, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo

Doc on Tech: ‘That’s on me’

01.11.10 at 11:51 pm ET
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Doc Rivers played the role of Bill Belichick on Monday night. He said responsibility for blowing his top and losing his cool while his team was losing the game was on him.

He admitted as much after his team dropped a 102-96 decision to the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden, a game that turned on a dime when the Celtics head coach was assessed consecutive technical fouls for arguing a flagrant foul on Glen Davis when he tried to stop Marvin Williams from a lay-up with 6:16 left in the third and the Celtics up, 67-57.

Afterward, Rivers said losing his cool just before his team lost the game was his responsibility.

Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson said Doc Rivers did what he felt he had to do.

Glen Davis said he was surprised he was called for a flagrant foul for taking out Marvin Williams on a drive to the basket.

Ray Allen didn’t feel it was a foul worthy of a flagrant call.

Allen said Rivers’ ejection was a terrible situation that turned the tide of the game.

Paul Pierce said, technicals aside, Celts didn’t do what was needed to win.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA,

Sore left foot sidelines Sheed for week

01.11.10 at 11:40 pm ET
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The Celtics were without Rasheed Wallace for their game against Atlanta due to a sore left forefoot and could be without the big-man’s services for the next week, according to coach Doc Rivers.

“Looks like a week, maybe. It’s day-to-day but I would say maybe a week. Maybe less. It’s going to be day-to-day.” Rivers said, adding x-rays were negative on the player who was already filling in for another injured Celtic – Kevin Garnett.

The foot began bothering him Sunday night after Boston’s win in Toronto. The team decided to hold him out when it was determined he couldn’t push off.

The team was made aware of it shortly after Wallace came off the court following pregame warmups. Brian Scalabrine started in his place. In addition to Wallace, the Celtics were already without Garnett [right knee] and Marquis Daniels [left thumb].

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rasheed Wallace,

Fast Break: Celtics vs. Hawks

01.11.10 at 10:08 pm ET
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BOSTON ‘€“ Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace didn’t have to be playing for fans to get their money’s worth. This game lived up to the hype and intensity that has become customary between the Celtics and Hawks since the 2008 playoffs. After leading by as many as 14, the Celtics were upset 102-96. But that wasn’t without comebacks, hard fouls, and ejections.

Player of the Game: Jamal Crawford went scoreless in the first half before scoring 17 points in the final two quarters. Even though Joe Johnson led all scorers with 36 points, Crawford hit clutch free throws and buckets to propel the Hawks down the stretch.

Turning Point: The Celtics led 67-57 with 6:16 left in the third before the chaos broke out. Here’s how it all went down ‘€“ Glen Davis got called for a flagrant foul on Marvin Williams (Zaza Pachulia had previously been called for a flagrant). Doc Rivers emphatically argued the ruling and got hit with two consecutive technicals, resulting in an ejection. As he walked off the court, he handed his notes over to assistant coach Armond Hill, who also got T’ed up before the clock even started again. Crawford hit three free throws and Williams knocked one down during the technical spree, cutting the Celtics lead to four. The Hawks then went on a 14-8 run to tie the game up at 75 apiece off of a Crawford trey. The Celtics never regained momentum and were outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter.

Paul Pierce attempted just two field goals in the fourth quarter, and missed them both. Rajon Rondo, who shot scored 17 points in the first half, scored just nine in the second.

– In a game of whistles, the Hawks made 33 trips to the free throw line (23-for-33) while the Celtics shot 14-for-18.

– Athleticsm came into play again tonight ‘€“ the Celtics were outscored 15-9 on fastbreak points. They were outscored 22-15 by the Hawks last Friday night.

Brian Scalabrine got his first start since February 23, 2009 in place of Rasheed Wallace. He posted nine points, five rebounds, and four fouls in 21 minutes.

Mike Bibby continues to be booed by Celtics fans on every possession. He played just 18 minutes (5 points, 2-for-3 FG) and did not play the entire fourth quarter.

– The Celtics will play the Hawks again on January 29 in Atlanta.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics,

Doc tossed

01.11.10 at 9:58 pm ET
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Doc Rivers was ejected from Monday’s game against Atlanta when he was assessed two consecutive technicals by veteran official Bennett Salvatore midway through the third quarter after officials whistled Glen Davis for a flagrant foul on Marvin Williams.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA,

No Sheed for the ATL

01.11.10 at 7:27 pm ET
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The Celtics will be without Rasheed Wallace for their game against Atlanta. Kevin Garnett’s back-up is missing the game with a sore left forefoot.

Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said it wasn’t immediately known when he injured the foot and the team decided to hold him out when it was determined he couldn’t push off. The team was made aware of it shortly after Wallace came off the court following pregame warmups.

Brian Scalabrine started in his place. In addition to Wallace, the Celtics were already without Kevin Garnett [right knee] and Marquis Daniels [left thumb].

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rasheed Wallace,

Doc: KG ‘another 10 days’ away

01.11.10 at 7:11 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Kevin Garnett began working out on Monday and expects him to be out another 10 days as he rehabs and strengthens his sore right knee.

Rivers had indicated around New Year’s Day that Garnett would be ready by the second week in January before revising his timetable a few days later after Garnett was unable to train with the injury.

“I’m hoping in the next 10 days, that area,” Rivers said. “Now, I actually am pretty sure it is in the next 10 days or so. He got to start working out today for the first time.

Now it’s just a conditioning thing. We want to make sure he gets strong and back in shape because he literally hasn’t done anything. We figure 10 days to two weeks, that’s what it’ll take. I think more like 10 days for him because trying to hold him down for those extra four will be very difficult.”

Garnett has been out since Dec. 22 with soreness in his right knee. Since then, Rivers said, Garnett has not been able to do anything more than shooting during practice.

“He literally has not done a thing and for him that’s a minor miracle for him, probably, but it’s been great for him and he feels good,” Rivers said.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett,
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