|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.’
|Doc: KG ‘another 10 days’ away||01.11.10 at 7:11 pm ET|
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.
|Doc Rivers on D&C||01.07.10 at 12:24 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show on Thursday morning. He discussed Wednesday night’s dramatic victory over the Heat in overtime, the case for Rajon Rondo as an All-Star and the issue of guns in the NBA, which was highlighted by the indefinite suspension of Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas.
A transcript of the interview is below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.
Where would last night’s victory rate?
Because of the way it finished it would rate high. Obviously there was a time where I thought we had it. Then it looked like we had lost it, and then we stole it back. Because of all that it ranks pretty high. Especially with all the guys coming back off of injury and still missing guys. There have been so many disruptions with our team right now, to have enough continuity to win a game has been great for all of our guys.
Was last night’s game all about overcoming human nature or giving into human nature?
I think so. They played hard on that last play. They did everything they were supposed to do. I was just happy with our guys, because when we called the timeout, it took me 15 seconds to get them in the huddle because they were so down. Once we drew up the play you could see them come back. They had the focus and just to execute the play and for it to work. Whenever anything works it looks great, because it takes so many moving parts for that stuff to happen. So, I thought we had good focus.
Have you used that play in the past and did it work?
We ran it once, might have been last year or two years ago, and it didn’t work. It worked to the point that Rondo was open and we threw the pass off the mark. It actually went into overtime. We work on that play occasionally, like once every 10 practices. Paul [Pierce] is the only guy that can make the pass, every time we use someone else it’s a bad pass. But it was good that all those guys were there.
What if there is less time than 0.6 seconds? Does it require all 0.6 seconds to get that up?
We’ve done it with 0.4 because it’s just a tap. Even at 0.3 you have a chance. Rondo is usually the best guy to do it, because he’s the guy that no one thinks you are going to do it with. That’s what we try to choose. Ray [Allen] is the other guy, surprisingly, because no one thinks you are going to throw a lob pass to Ray, either. So, it’s usually one of those two guys.
|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.’
|Injury situation comes into focus||01.02.10 at 11:04 pm ET|
The Celtics shed a little light on their developing injury situation Saturday night.
As expected, Rajon Rondo joined Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the sidelines. Doc Rivers said he was didn’t want his young point guard to make his tender hamstring worse, and after reviewing Rondo’s performance against Phoenix, Rivers said he was concerned that Rondo was trying to over-compensate for the injury. The decision to rest him was set in precautionary terms. “I think he wanted to play,” Rivers said before adding that trainer Eddie Lacerte makes the final call.
While Rondo sat, Pierce detailed his experiences last week, which involved a higher than expected white-cell count and an additional surgery to deal with fluid and an infection in his knee. (Go here for more details). If all goes well Pierce might practice Monday before the team heads to Miami to start a three-game road trip, but that’s far from certain. Rivers called it 50-50 and Pierce said he was “day-to-day.”
What is certain is that Rondo and Pierce are far more likely to rejoin the team before Garnett does. Since details of his hyper-extended knee have surfaced, Garnett has been pushed back from likely to miss the next two games, to possibly out for as much as 10 days from now. That could have Garnett out of the lineup for as many as five games, but even that is far from a hard target.
“I have no idea,” Rivers said. “I really don’t.”
If that sounds eerily familiar to last season, well, it is. The difference, perhaps, this time around is the Celtics may be better-equipped to deal with Garnett’s absence for an extended — and unknown –period of time this season.
For starters, the stakes are much obviously lower now than they were last season. The playoffs are nowhere in sight and the Celtics hot start has given them ample room for Garnett to take his time and heal properly.
The offseason addition of Rasheed Wallace also gives the Celtics a reasonable facsimile of Garnett’s production and Wallace played perhaps his best game of the season against the Raptors Saturday night. He worked effectively inside on the post and his timely outside shooting helped loosen up the Raptors interior defense, which frankly wasn’t all that tight to begin with.
“When Rasheed wants to be, he can be one of the best post players in the game,” said Kendrick Perkins, echoing what so many have said over the years. “But, when he comes to play and he’s focused, man, he’s great.”
The Celtics will need more performances like this from Wallace over the next few weeks, whose play can accurately be described as uneven through the first 32 games. “Rasheed shows you he can play almost every night,” Rivers said. “He doesn’t play well every night, but he’s getting better each game.”
The third factor with Garnett is that the Celtics have been through this once before. The veteran players are mature and grounded enough to know that it will take some time for Garnett to return and they are prepared to deal with his absence, no matter how long it lasts.
“With Kevin, the big thing is we just want to stay afloat and stay on top of the East until he gets back,” Perkins said. “We don’t want him to feel like he has to rush back.”
|No rush for KG return||at 7:56 pm ET|
“At least you know it’s going to be a lot longer than that, but you don’t know how quickly he can come back from that.”
Entering Saturday’s game, the Celtics were 2-3 in the five games without Garnett in the lineup.
|Garnett’s rest not part of master plan||01.01.10 at 6:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — When Kevin Garnett returned from knee surgery this season, there was a question as to how many games he would play. He hadn’t played a full 82 games since the 2004-5 season and had not played more than 71 as a Celtic.
Surely Doc Rivers would want to give his big man rest, but when and how long?
Even though now Garnett is out ‘indefinitely,’ according to Rivers, with a hyperxtended right knee which he suffered this week, the Celtics coach says this period of rest was not part of a master plan to preserve minutes.
‘No, no, this is because of a freak accident,’ Rivers said after practice on Friday. ‘Kevin is as frustrated as anybody that he hyperextended his knee on a play that happened twice in two different games, which is literally impossible…Both times he was jumping off you’re feet and someone kicks you and kicks the back of your leg, for that to happen once is almost impossible. For that to happen twice is just bad luck. And it just did. He’s laughing like how can that happen twice? I said, well it happened in this game and in that game. That’s how.’
Rivers said rest is imperative for this kind of injury, regardless of who the player is. But given Garnett’s history with injuries, the team has to be extra cautious.
‘It’s not a serious injury but if you don’t take care of it, especially in Kevin’s case, he’ll compensate, and then he would injure himself,’ he said. ‘So I’m not taking that chance.’
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