|Inside the Game: Rajon Rondo and the art of passing||01.12.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
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.
“I don’t know if it’s a skill. Maybe it’s just natural,” he said. “I 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 “Inside 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.
“It 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.
“Maybe 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.
“Everybody 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.
“You 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.
“I 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.”
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Hawks||01.11.10 at 10:08 pm ET|
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.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Raptors||01.10.10 at 3:52 pm ET|
The Celtics continued to dominate the Raptors with a 114-107 win on Sunday in Toronto. The C’s have won seven straight over the Raptors and have not lost to them since January 23, 2008.
Player of the Game: Two Celtics deserve recognition for this accolade. Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. Rasheed Wallace contributed 29 points (9-12 FG, 5-7 3PG, 6-6 FT), the most he has scored in a Celtics uniform. Wallace also came up with a critical steal with a minute to go as the Raptors closed in by six.
Turning Point: The Celtics established their control early on in the game. They jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first 1:41 and got the entire team involved. Wallace, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kendrick Perkins all scored baskets; Pierce, Perkins, and Rondo grabbed a rebound, and Rondo dished four assists. Even though the Raptors went on runs late in the game to threaten the Celtics lead, this early advantage gave the C’s a cushion throughout the afternoon.
- All of the Celtics starters scored in double digits eight minutes into the third quarter. Pierce added 16 points in his second game back from a right knee infection.
- The Celtics held Hedo Turkoglu scoreless until 6:24 in the third. He finished the game with just five points (2-for-9 FG).
- Chris Bosh fouled out with ten seconds left in the game. He led all scorers with 31 points.
|Hudson: I Learned A Lot||at 1:22 am ET|
Consider it an accelerated learning program.
In less than seven months, Lester Hudson received a hands-on education from one of the most talented basketball organizations in the NBA. He practiced against future Hall of Famers, received coaching from former pros, and learned the ropes behind an emerging All-Star.
The rookie gained more knowledge in a few short months than some players do in an entire season.
Now Hudson, who was waived by the Celtics last Wednesday, looks forward to applying what he learned from the C’s on to the court for the Grizzlies. The Memphis native was claimed off of waivers by his hometown team on Friday.
“I was very sad, very sad when the Celtics let me go,” he told WEEI.com in a telephone interview. “But I’m very happy to play back in my hometown.”
Hudson looks forward to sharing his experiences with the young Grizzlies squad, whose average age is 24 years old. Not only did he learn from veterans such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, he also formed a close bond with one of the hottest young point guards in the league today.
“I learned a lot from (Rajon) Rondo,” he said. “He’s my best friend on the team I’d say, so I learned a lot. He’s a great point guard. I think he’ll be an All-Star this year, so it was great playing behind him, learning how he ran the floor, ran the offense, and got everyone in position. That was my biggest thing coming in as a point guard, learning how to run an NBA team, and he helped me out with that.”
Hudson also received proven advice from the Celtics coaching staff. Both head coach Doc Rivers and director of basketball development Tyronn Lue are former NBA point guards. Hudson worked closely with Lue during practice.
“It was great having Ty Lue there,” he said. “He was a great point guard in the NBA and he taught me how to be aggressive, coming off the pick-and-roll, stuff like that, just trying to make the plays for the other guys. He helped me out a lot.”
Many of the Celtics have reached out to Hudson since he was waived, including Rondo and Marquis Daniels. Lue and assistant coach Mike Longabardi have contacted him as well.
Hudson does not harbor any ill will toward the team that selected him with the 58th pick in the 2009 NBA draft. He averaged just 4.4 minutes in 16 games for the Celtics and had also spent time in the D-League. Hudson understood the Celtics decision to waive him before they would have had to guarantee his contract.
“They said it was a hard decision,” he said. “They didn’t want to do that, but they were trying to get some room for the team if they needed a veteran point guard to come in for the playoffs, and I understood that. They said I was going to be in the NBA and just keep working hard.”
Hudson’s career in Boston may have been cut short, but he didn’t need long with the Celtics to gain invaluable lessons that he can share with his new teammates in Memphis.
“I can tell them just to work hard,” he said. “Because that’s why [the Celtics are] one of the best in the NBA right now.”
|Scal gets new job for a day||01.07.10 at 11:29 am ET|
In the market for a new home? Let Brian Scalabrine help you out.
This month Scalabrine will get a new job for the day as a RE/MAX Real Estate Host.
On Jan.17, he will showcase a $1.89 million RE/MAX Collection home, located at 84 Bacon Street in Winchester, from 3-4 p.m. with RE/MAX associate Kim Covino.
Scalabrine will lead tours, highlight the home’s décor and amenities, and also participate in a meet and greet with buyers and agents.
Talk about a new role for the Celtics role player.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Heat||01.06.10 at 10:50 pm ET|
The Celtics overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Heat, 112-106, in dramatic fashion on the road in overtime. This game wasn’t pretty — the Celtics committed 24 turnovers while the Heat attempted 98 shots — but the C’s fended off 44 points from Dwayne Wade to get the win.
Player of the Game: Kudos to Paul Pierce for perfectly executing the game-tying alley-oop to Rajon Rondo, but this award goes to the recipient of the pass. Not only did Rondo send the Celtics into overtime, he led them in the final five minutes. Rondo finished with a team-high 25 points.
Turning Point: After Wade hit a pair of game-tying free throws, the Celtics had an opportunity to hit the game-winner with 5.5 seconds left. Wade stole the ball from Ray Allen at halfcourt and slammed the go-ahead bucket to put the Heat up, 101-99, with 0.6 seconds to go. The Celtics responded with one of the best plays of the season – an inbound alley-oop from Pierce to Rondo as time expired to force overtime.
- Pierce posted 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in his return from a knee infection.
- The Celtics committed 24 turnovers to just 11 by the Heat.
- Free throws were a huge deciding factor in this game. The Celtics shot 33-for-41; the Heat shot 20-for-27.
- Rasheed Wallace played a stretch in the fourth quarter with five fouls. He eventually fouled out fighting for a rebounds with Udonis Haslem, and the Celtics bench quickly stepped in front of him on the sidelines to prevent him from arguing the call.
- After getting his first NBA start last weekend, J.R. Giddens did not play on Wednesday.
|Inside the Game: Shelden Williams and the Art of Rebounding||01.05.10 at 10:41 pm ET|
For a player whose career had been filled with uncertainties, one thing was for sure about Shelden Williams.
“Shelden has proven he can defend and rebound,” President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said at Williams’ introductory press conference this summer.
The Celtics were drawn to those defensive skills when they signed him during the offseason. They were looking to add another big man to their bench and believed he had the potential to help their team down low.
His rebounding contributions are even more critical now that Kevin Garnett is sidelined. Although he is not the first man off the bench, Williams tries to make an impression on the boards whenever he can.
Before he began his NBA career, Williams had made his mark on Duke University. In fact, he had made it on backboards around the NCAA.
He graduated from Duke in 2006 as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots. Williams pulled down 1,262 boards over his four-year career and averaged 9.1 boards per game, including 11.2 as a junior. He became the third player in NCAA history to score 1,500 points, nab 1,000 rebounds, block 350 shots, and pick off 150 steals, while earning consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Williams was selected by the Hawks with the fifth pick in the 2006 Draft. That season he led all rookies in double-doubles and ranked third on his team in rebounds. Even as his playing time decreased and he was eventually traded (he was sent from the Hawks to the Kings to the Timberwolves over the course of two seasons), Williams stayed focused on attacking the boards.
Now on the Celtics, he has accepted the team’s defensive mentality. He is currently averaging 3.5 boards in 13.5 minutes and has recorded 8-, 9-, and 10-rebound games. Even though Williams has only played a total of 377 minutes (9th on team), he has recorded 99 rebounds (7th). He has also grabbed 33 offensive boards (4th), more than Rasheed Wallace and just seven shy of Garnett in 500 less minutes.
As part of WEEI.com’s “Inside the Game” series with the Celtics, Williams explained the art of attacking the glass.
Learning at a Young Age: As a teenager, Williams led Midwest City High School (OK) to the Oklahoma Class 6A State Championship.
“I was taught that very early on. My dad always told me about the importance of rebounding and playing defense. Those are two things that are will. If you want to do it, you have a will to do it. Those two things were taught to me at an early age and just kind of stuck.”
His American Idol: The soft-spoken Williams admired one of the most colorful athletes to ever play the game of basketball.
“During my time period coming up, it was Dennis Rodman. He was always going after every single rebound whether he’d be over the top or not. I think that watching him be relentless, I learned from that.”
Leaving a Legacy: During his record-setting career at Duke, Williams grabbed a personal-best 19 rebounds against Virginia Tech in 2005.
“[My record] is very important. My shot blocking and my rebounding record will be there for a while so I scratched my name on the stone, so to speak. My whole career that I was there, no one had averaged a double-double and that’s something I set out to do. I was able to accomplish it in my junior and senior year.”
There’s a Thought Process: In order to be successful, Williams educates himself on his opponents before they take the shot so he can put himself in the best position once the ball is in the air.
“[When you go in for the rebound] depends on where the shot’s been taken from. You kind of play percentages. If the ball’s on the other end of the court and I’m on the opposite block, more often than not it’s going to come off the opposite of that block. Also you’ve got to take into account the guy who’s shooting it. Has he been missing his shot? Does he tend to be short a lot of the time? Whatever the case may be, you try to think about that as well.”
Offensive vs. Defensive: This season the Celtics have been outperformed on the offensive glass. Williams says there is a difference on both ends of the court.
“Defensive rebounding, more often than not for a big, you’re already down there. Most cases you play around the block, closer to the basket. Whereas for offensive rebounding, if you’re setting a pick out there on the wing, you’ve got to run into there. Like I said, there’s a big difference because most time on defense you’re already in the paint … Any time the ball goes up I try to attack the glass. More often than not, not everybody’s attacking the glass all the time, so I try to make myself available, especially on the offensive end, to I keep the ball alive.”
Make the Extra Effort: At 6-9, Williams still works hard to make sure he has the edge over his opponents at the basket. On this particular day of the interview, he was the last player to leave the court after practice.
“[I] just try to rebound as much as I can. I try to make the concerted effort.”