|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. 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.”
|Rivers explains ‘The Play’||01.07.10 at 4:02 pm ET|
A day after the Celtics forced overtime with an inbound alley-oop layin from Paul Pierce to Rajon Rondo, Celtics fans are still buzzing about “The Play.” It took less than a second to execute, but it’s sure to be talked about the rest of the season.
On Thursday, Doc Rivers explained the keys to this offensive strategy on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show.
Picking the passer: After running through the play in practice, Rivers knew Pierce was the right man for the role.
“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 mark. It actually went into overtime. We work on that play occasionally, like once every 10 practices. Paul 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.”
“The good thing with Paul, because he is such a threat as a player, they rarely put a big on him. A lot of time, like what we did in Golden State where we put the two bigs on the ball, teams don’t want to do that just in case there is enough time for Paul to come back and get the ball. They usually put his guy on him and that’s why we use him.”
Watching the clock: Six-tenths of a second may not seem like a lot of time to pull of a daring shot, but it was more than enough for the Celtics.
“We’ve done it with 0.4 because it’s just a tap. Even at 0.3 you have a chance.”
Selecting the secret weapon: The Heat were caught off guard when Pierce lobbed the ball to the smallest guy on the team.
“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.”
Testing the guinea pigs: Rivers had stumped his own players in practice to ensure it could work against their opponents.
“We just disguise it. It’s the same play that you could run like 10 different ways and we just give it different formations. That’s what we do in practice.”
|Doc Rivers on D&C||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.
|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.
|Pierce and Rondo practice||01.05.10 at 3:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Where to begin with the Celtics injury situation Tuesday? Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were on the floor taking part in practice. Kendrick Perkins and Eddie House were home with the flu. Just for good measure, injured swing man Marquis Daniels was spotted sweating through a treadmill workout while the team practiced and Kevin Garnett is definitely not playing on the road trip.
“Yeah,” Doc Rivers said to the media as they tried to sort through where to begin their questions. “The circus continues.”
The good news is that Pierce and Rondo both took part in most of the practice session Tuesday and it seems likely that they will both play Wednesday against Miami, although Pierce looks like the safer bet right now.
“They looked all right,” Rivers said. “Paul looked good. Rondo, you really couldn’t tell. He didn’t do much. So we’ll see tomorrow. I think he’s going to go but I wouldn’t write that down in pen for sure. Paul probably will go tomorrow it looks like, so that would help us a lot. Getting one of those guys back I’d be very happy and if we got both back it would be absolutely fantastic.”
Rondo left without talking to reporters for the second straight day although he did tell Yahoo!’s Marc Spears that he expects to play against the Heat. Pierce did talk and he said that while he’s not 100 percent, he’s feeling confident about returning to the court. Read the rest of this entry »