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Rondo’s improved shooting 02.16.10 at 2:27 pm ET
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One of the most important storylines of the 2009-10 Celtics season has been Rajon Rondo’s emergence into a full-fledged star. His assists are up, his steals are way up and he has the big contract and All-Star appearance to back him up.

But the true revelation with Rondo this season has been his improved mid-range game. His traditional field goal percentage is up slightly from just over 50 percent to 52.9 percent, but that only tells part of the story. For that we need to turn to Hoop Data, a website that tracks where a player shoots, and how often he makes it.

For stat geeks, Hoop Data is a treasure trove of interesting numbers. For example Glen Davis has his shot blocked a fairly amazing 21 percent of the time, which helps explain why he has had so much trouble finishing around the basket.

Back to Rondo. According to Hoop Data’s numbers, he has improved his shooting percentage at the rim and raised it significantly from 10-15 feet in to the basket. That would be the in-between game so many purists long for.

In 2009, Rondo took a little more than half his shots at the rim and made over 61 percent of them, which is very good for a point guard. This season he has increased his attempts slightly (from 5.1 to 5.4), and also improved his percentage to over 65 percent. That meshes with how most people see Rondo–as a player who can get to the basket and finish well despite his size.

To give you an idea on how that compares to other point guards, only San Antonio’s Tony Parker takes as many shots per game and finishes as well as the rim as Rondo.

Rondo’s real work has come slightly farther out. From 10 feet and in, Rondo’s accuracy goes from 40 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2010. From 10-15 feet away from the basket, Rondo’s percentage jumps from 35.2 to 52.5 percent. He has also upped his attempts from those distances over the previous season.

What all that shows is a player understanding how to utilize his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, and how to score once he does.

It’s not all good news for Rondo. His accuracy on longer shots and 3-pointers has dropped, as has his free throw shooting, which is a genuine cause for concern since it removes him from late-game situations. Rondo may never be a great long-range shooter, but if he can continue to master the in-between game–and get his free throw shooting up to a respectable level–he won’t have to be one to be effective.

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Perkins could provide all-world defense for Team USA 02.10.10 at 2:39 pm ET
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perk

Perkins could add some defensive toughness to Team USA (AP)

When Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski were forming the potential pool of players for Team USA, they were looking for a “true center” who could guard potential big men all around the world.

They may have found that man in Kendrick Perkins.

On Wednesday, Perkins was named to the 27-man roster that is eligible to compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey and, if the team qualifies, in the 2012 London Olympics. The 27 players will be invited to a July mini-camp in Las Vegas, where the roster will be trimmed down going forward.

Perkins’ selection was one which which Krzyzewski – who led the 2008 team to a gold medal – was comfortable because of the center’s ability to play with Hall of Fame talent and his most glaring strength…defense.

“He plays on a team that’s a championship level team and he knows how to play with great players,” Krzyzewski said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “I think he is one of the better defensive players in the league and that really appealed to us about Kendrick.”

Perkins will be competing with Dwight Howard, Brooke Lopez, Ama’re Stoudemire and former Celtic Al Jefferson for one of the center spots on the 2012 Olympic team. Colangelo said Perkins could fit in and be the perfect role player on a team that will highlight some of the best talent in the NBA.

“We are not talking about the top 27 or 28 best all-around basketball players necessarily. Perkins can guard the bigs,” said Colangelo. “He should be able to perform very well competitively very well in the international game.

“As we look at our roster there is also a need for how are you going to defend against the bigs that we see on a number of European teams, South American teams and he has the ability to do that. He has a significant opportunity.”

Perkins is averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game this season, while grabbing 8.1 rebounds a night. He is also averaging just under two blocks a game, and has been one of the most consistent and healthy players for a banged-up Celtics squad this season.

Perkins was the only Celtics player selected to the pool of 27, a list that didn’t include first year All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.

“Rondo was not responsive to the inquiries regarding his interest,” said Colangelo, who said along with Andrew Bynum, three or four unnamed players declined the invite. “So we just assumed that was the case.”

The US team is loaded at the point guard position, with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups all being selected to the pool. Jason Kidd declined the invite, as he retired from international competition after the 2008 Beijing Games with a gold medal.

Nine players and the entire coaching staff return from the 2008 gold medal team, including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. To see the entire list click here.

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Perkins on Team USA at 11:19 am ET
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Kendrick Perkins is one of 27 players named to USA Basketball’s national roster who will compete in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this summer and the 2012 London Olympics. Perkins joins eight holdovers from the 2008 gold-medal winning team. Conspicuously absent from the list, which is not yet final: Rajon Rondo.

Click here for the full roster.

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R-O-N-D-O to play H-O-R-S-E in D-A-L-L-A-S 02.08.10 at 4:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics All-Star guard Rajon Rondo confirmed following Monday’s practice that he will be taking part in the HORSE competition at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

The guard said he will come up with some trick shots that only he can make in an effort to beat Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the defending champion, and Sacramento’s Omri Casspi.

Last year, Durant beat Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and O.J. Mayo of Memphis for the title.

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Daniels fueled by adrenaline in return 02.07.10 at 6:58 pm ET
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Marquis Daniels (AP)

Marquis Daniels (AP)

All along, Marquis Daniels has said he didn’t want to play with any fear when he returned from his thumb injury.

More than two months have passed since Daniels underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. On Sunday against the Magic, he stayed true to his word.

Daniels was greeted by a standing ovation when he made his debut with 4.3 seconds left in the first quarter — “I appreciate that,” he said. “Thank ya’ll. Thank you everybody.”

Doc Rivers told Daniels he was looking for him to be aggressive, and Daniels listened. He shook off a careless foul he committed as Mickael Pietrus shot a 3, and had confidence in his own shot. He knocked down his first attempt (a turnaround jumper) just 46 seconds into the second quarter.

“It’s always a good feeling to make your first shot,” he said with a laugh. “The basket started looking wider, so it was just a good feeling just to make the first one.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Alston wanted to play for Celtics 02.05.10 at 12:44 am ET
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Rafer Alston had interest in joining the Celtics before he ended up in Miami. (AP)

Rafer Alston had interest in joining the Celtics before he ended up in Miami. (AP)

Earlier this season, there was speculation that the Celtics could make a move to acquire Rafer Alston after he was bought out by the Nets. The theory was that he could be a veteran backup to Rajon Rondo, the same role the Celtics had filled with Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury the previous two seasons.

Turns out, it was actually the other way around. Rather than the Celtics going after Alston, Alston told his camp after the buyout that he would like to play in Boston. He is “pretty sure” the Celtics knew of his interest, but he never had a conversation with the organization.

“I think it was my interest,” he told WEEI.com. “But I don’t think Doc [Rivers] would have opposed it knowing that you can grab a guy that can give you minutes at backup point for this team, and who’s a willing passer and just a natural point guard. Then understand, I played for [assistant coach Tom] Thibodeau before in Houston. So I’d always had them on my mind before I came here.”

The 33-year-old didn’t lose any time holding out for the C’s, though. The Heat scooped him up almost immediately after he cleared waivers in early January. Alston could not turn down the opportunity to start for a playoff contender, nor could he stress enough how happy he is on his new team: “I got blown away by coming here with the immediate option to play instead of waiting it out.”

There is an element of surprise in Alston’s interest in the Celtics, though. He has been involved in some heated moments at TD Garden. Last season he slapped Eddie House in the head during the Eastern Conference semifinals as a member of the Magic. Just Wednesday night, he was issued a technical foul in the Celtics-Heat game.

But Alston says that has nothing to do with ill will. It’s about the competition.

“I enjoy watching them on League Pass,” he admitted. “Playing against them, I know it’s going to be a competitive game. We always chat at each other, but deep down I always care about each of the players in this league. So even if I did come, I hope they wouldn’t have taken the chatter back and forth that we all do against each other personally. Again, I have a great respect for the level of competition that they bring.”

Alston also has a good understanding of the Celtics. He has faced them enough times over his career to see where he could have fit in. While he believes Rondo is more than qualified to run the floor himself — “He’s an All-Star,” Alston said. “He’s having a wonderful career.” — Alston thinks having a true point guard on the bench could have had its benefits, too.

“Not back up but just complement, maybe get him [Rondo] some much-needed rest,” he explained. “Sometimes there are nights that he’s out there giving 40 minutes, and get him some rest. And also, you’d help the second-unit guys. You can keep some guys in their natural positions. You can keep [Eddie] House in his natural position; you can keep [Marquis] Daniels in his natural position, guys that are flirting between playing shooting guard.

“That’s one thing that I learned in this game. If you can keep everyone at their natural and most comfortable position, them succeeding is a better percentage.”

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Eddie House on D&H: Rondo, Pierce and 3′s 02.04.10 at 1:46 pm ET
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Eddie House

Eddie House

Celtics guard Eddie House joined the guys on Dale & Holley to talk about the All-Star 3-point contest, the Celtics’ recent struggles and Rajon Rondo’s maturity.

I’m hoping you could give us some news — that you’re going to take part in the 3-point contest?

No, I haven’t got an invite. I think Paul’s actually going to be the one representing the Celtics in the contest, so I hope all’s well with that and I hope he gets a win.

You should have been in last year, in your hometown — could you imagine a final in Phoenix between you and Mike Bibby?

That would have been a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, that’s not my main goal, to get in the 3-point contest. Mine is to make sure my 3-point percentage is steadily on the way up, and I’m helping the team get wins — that’s what it’s about. My job is to do whatever I can to get wins and get a few loose rebounds or make the next pass so somebody else can make the wide open shot, or if it’s me to take the shot or hit a 3 or 2, whatever I have to do to get a win, that’s what my focus is. Read the rest of this entry »

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