|Inside the Game: Eddie House and the art of sharpshooting||01.20.10 at 12:22 am ET|
When the NBA announces the contestants of the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout in early February, Eddie House hopes to see his name on the lineup.
‘The wind can’t stop me. The cold weather can’t stop me,’ he proclaims in a promotional video in which he shovels snow off the court to shoot treys in a hat and winter coat.
Even when it’s cold out, House has the ability to get hot from long-range. Yet even though he has made his mark in Boston as a 3-point threat, he didn’t always spend most of his time behind the arc.
Seven years before he signed with the Celtics, House was a second-round pick of the Heat in 2000. He had played four years at Arizona State, where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,044 points) and tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points scored in a Pac-10 game (61).
But by the time House (who is listed at 6-foot-1) squared off against NBA players, he quickly realized he couldn’t score at ease like he had on his way to the pros. And since he was coming off the bench, his coaches weren’t looking for him to score 30 points every night either.
So he began to adapt. House took his jumper and moved further and further away from the basket. As his role on the court changed, so did his game.
He honed in on his long-range shot, a decision early in his career that has paid long-term dividends in his career. House has spent the last three years as one of the Celtics’ offensive go-to guys off the bench and has proven himself to be reliable down the stretch. Last season he broke Danny Ainge’s single-season 3-point shooting percentage (44.4 percent). This season he is shooting 37.1 percent from behind the arc, second on the team only to Paul Pierce.
As part of WEEI.com’s ‘Inside the Game’ series with the Celtics, House explains that even though he may be known for his 3-point skills, it took more than just treys (think 1,000 shots a day in the offseason) to become a successful sharpshooter:
Knowing his role: House shot less than 35 percent from 3-point range during his first three NBA seasons. After perfecting his craft, he has ranked in the top 10 among all players in two seasons.
‘I think I probably developed [3-point shooting] more in the league more than anywhere else. Being in college and high school, you’re the guy who’s getting the most buckets and you’re like the man on the team, to where you come to the league and you have to become a role player. It was a role that because I was able to shoot the ball, that was the role that I was given so I had to start working on it. … Just repetition, practice, practice, practice, practice.”
Art appreciation: Hitting 3-pointers may look flashy during a game, but House always enjoys seeing more fundamental shots on the court.
“I don’t just love the 3-pointer ‘ I love the jump shot. I think it’s kind of a lost art. You don’t have too many jump shooters in the game anymore. You have a lot of set shooters. I think it’s a pretty art that’s something that’s gone away from the game. There aren’t too many jump shooters at a premium, so to be one of them in the league, I think if you can shoot the basketball, you have a great chance of staying in this league for a while.”
No time to waste: One of House’s biggest strengths is his ability to quickly get rid of the ball ‘ into the basket. His efficient catch and release not only helps the tempo of the game, it also helps him get better looks at the hoop.
“I guess if I took too long, then I’d probably get my shot blocked. So it’s just something that I developed by not trying to get my shot blocked. Knowing I’m not the tallest guy on the court, if I take too long I might get it blocked so it’s something you have to adapt to, and it wound up happening.”
Counting their weapons: Even though House is part of the Celtics’ second unit, he often plays alongside the starters. The combination of offensive weapons poses problems for their opponents.
“[Ray Allen is] another guy that has to be accounted for. You know they’re not going to help off him ‘ you know they’re not really going to help off me ‘ but at times if I’m out on the court and it’s Ray, Paul, Kevin [Garnett], [Rajon] Rondo, when they drive, someone’s got to give, and usually I’m the guy that they give from, so I get open shots.”
Two was enough: Surprisingly, House’s most significant shot was not a 3-pointer. He remembers a clutch jumper during the Celtics’ historic comeback against the Lakers in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
“It wasn’t a 3-point shot. I think the biggest shot I made in my career was against the Lakers. It put us up when we were making that comeback from being down 24 in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, we ran a play, I set a pick and rolled out, Paul [Pierce] dribbled out, hit me in the corner and I hit the shot. It put us up for the first time and we never looked back. I think that was the most important shot I made in my career.”
Second generation shooting: The oldest of Houses’ three sons, Jaelen, is already gravitating toward the arc. Oh, yeah, he’s only 8 years old.
“Jaelen tries to shoot it right now. He can make college 3-pointers. He started this past summer because he plays with older kids that are around 12. They’re shooting the shot and it’s easy for them, and he’s trying and it’s too much of a push for him. We never work on those things when we work out. I have him work on everything else but the first thing he always wants to do is go behind the 3 and shoot the shots. I don’t know why.”
|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.’
|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.’
|Inside the Game: Paul Pierce and the Art of Versatility||12.21.09 at 1:17 am ET|
After nearly 12 years in the league, Pierce has learned how to accentuate his talents to help the Celtics win. He ranked first on the Celtics in scoring and 3-point shooting, second in assists, and third in rebounding heading into Sunday’s game. This overall versatility is what makes him one of the most dangerous players in the league.
Whether it is hitting a clutch shot or diving on the floor for a loose ball, Pierce has an unrelenting drive to help the Celtics win. This whatever-it-takes attitude was instilled in him as a child, but he did not learn it watching professional basketball players.
He learned it from his mother, Lorraine Hosey.
As part of the WEEI.com’s ‘Inside the Game’ series with the Celtics, Pierce explained how his mother’s inspiration has transformed him into the player he is today.
A Man of Many Weapons: Pierce boasts a career average of 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
‘Some nights it might not be my scoring. Some nights it might be my defense. I think I have the ability to do it all, so I think that’s the way I affect the game. Some nights it’s going to be, like I said, my rebounding, my offense, my defense. I just think it’s whatever the team needs that night. Ray [Allen] might have it going or someone else may have it going and they may need me to lock down one of their best players. So that’s what I try to bring to this team.’
Feeling the Flow: Pierce tied a franchise record with his 6-for-6 long-range performance on Sunday. He shot a perfect 3-for-3 during the second quarter alone. The performance offered an example of how he adapts his game to the flow of the game on any given night.
‘I just think I’ve got a feel for the game. It’s all a feel from the start of the game, kind of realizing at the beginning this is going to be a game where they’re going to need my scoring. You sort of feel it during the game. It’s hard to explain. You kind of go through the flow of the game and you understand it and you understand what kind of night it’s going to be. It’s just experience, playing with a great team also. Before it was like every night they needed my scoring. But when you play on a great team with so many great players, you kind of figure out whatever I need to bring to the game.’
Always On Call: Last season Pierce ranked ninth among all players in clutch shooting on 82games.com. (This stat is defined by scoring in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points.)
‘[It’s all about] just being mentally ready and focused. That’s what the game is all about. I may not have it going, I may not be hitting my shots, but I’m always mentally in tune and ready.’
An Unexpected Source of Inspiration: Pierce grew up in California as a Lakers fan. No one, however, in purple and gold could top what he learned at home.
‘[It was] definitely mom. She was always there when I needed something. Not as an athlete but period. I get it from her… I definitely [carry part of her on the court]. Of course she [knows it]. I just got my never-quit attitude from her. My mom didn’t grow up in the best situations, raising three boys by herself, maintaining three jobs just to put food on the table. She didn’t look at adversity as something that would bring her down. She always tried to find a way.’
|Perkins: Inside the mind of a shot-blocker||11.23.09 at 11:27 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins leads the Celtics in blocked shots this season and also is one of the top swatters in the NBA. His 29 blocks through 14 games ranks him seventh overall in the league in blocks per game (2.07) and blocks per 48 minutes (3.73). He ranks third in total blocks among all NBA centers and second in the Eastern Conference.
Perkins gave WEEI.com a glimpse into the mind of a shot-blocker:
Good block, bad block: ‘A good block is when you can block a shot and keep it in play. A block, rebound, keep it in play where you get the possession. A bad block is when you block it and block it out of bounds and you’ve got to play defense all over again.’
Timing is everything: ‘Timing, you’ve got to read. I think you’ve got to read, see what’s going on. Sometimes you’ve got to judge whether or not you can actually block the shot. Is it worth trying to go and block it? So it’s all timing and decision making.’
Judgment call: ‘Well, you can tell if a guy’s out of position as far as just how he goes up, if he’s kind of capable of making the shot. If a guy goes up out of control, you kind of want to fall back and just wait for a rebound.’
Making the move: ‘When it leaves his hands, then you jump up.’
Perkins has used his judgment to make cautious decisions on defense. He leads all Eastern Conference centers in blocks per personal foul (.74). Perkins shows no signs of letting up this season, either. He is averaging a season-best 2.5 blocks per game on zero days’ rest.
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