Following yesterday’s win over Miami, Rajon Rondo was swimming in credit as coaches and players alike singled him out for turning that game around. Not only did number nine pick up his seventh regular season triple-double, but the full court pressure he put on the Royal Penis had Rondo’s fans gushing.
This was Doc Rivers: “He’s the smartest player I’ve ever coached, maybe ever been around. I’ve been around some pretty smart players, but he’s right there.”
And this was Kendrick Perkins: “We know what Rondo is capable of doing. He turned it up another notch. I’ve never seen anybody make LeBron turn his back to the basket. He didn’t really want to put it on the ground around him. I thought that was huge.”
No doubt, Rondo’s defense on LBJ was a big factor yesterday and despite missing FOUR free throws, it is hard to find too much fault with Rondo’s third quarter. But lost in the hoopla is an issue that continues to haunt the Celtics and that is the following …. In a big spot, the Celts can’t count on Rondo to make an open fourteen footer and the whole league now knows it.
This problem was revealed in plain sight yesterday when the Celtics limped to the finish line by scoring just 11 fourth quarter points. And to diagnose the problem, one has to look no further than Rondo, who missed a couple of bunnies in the fourth, dorked a layup and was called for a five-second violation as he was backing down Mario Chalmers. The turnover was particularly damning as it showed Rondo emptying his arsenal to avoid taking an open fourteen footer.
So the Heat rallied into the close and made a game of it because Boston had NO offense down the stretch. Rondo touched on this after the game …..”Right now, we have to find a way to score in the fourth quarter and that seems to be our problem.” Well Raj, it is a problem because other teams are choosing to leave you open and you can’t make them pay.
It boils down to this. The Celtics are struggling late because teams are perfectly comfortable sagging off Rondo and handing him open fifteen footers. Not twenty footers, mind you. But gimmies from the shoulder of the foul line. And he doesn’t want to take them. In fact, it looks like he would rather challenge Big Baby to a pie eating contest than take one of these chippies. This is painfully clear to all but the blind. And on the rare occasions when Rondo does swing away in big spots, the results have been terrible, as they were yesterday and again last Thursday against the Lakers (when Rondo missed a couple of open jumpers in the third and didn’t take another until the game was no longer in doubt.)
This is simply not acceptable for an NBA pro. Listen, the Celtics probably would have won their 18th championship last June if Rondo could have sunk a few of these jumpers against the Lakers. Given that, how does he show up this season with that same busted-up jump shot still in tow? The Lakers were on to him. The Heat are now on to him. And it won’t be long before the entire league starts ignoring R2 beyond twelve feet.
It was incumbent upon Rondo to put an end to this during the off-season. If nothing else, Rondo had to figure out a way to drain sixteen footers. Is that asking too much? Honestly, the goal here was not to turn Rondo into Walter Davis. Ex-Mav Brad Davis would do just fine.
Well, here is a little tidbit for you at home. Forget Walter Davis or Brad Davis because Rondo still shoots like Al Davis Yeah, I know the info on HoopData says he is shooting forty percent outside of ten feet and that isn’t a horrible number. But I would love to see that number crunched further so that I could isolate mid-range jumpers in close games during the second half. My gut tells me Rondo’s makes less than a quarter of those.
I don’t mean to kill Rondo here. And I readily admit that he does some terrific things for the Celts. But before we admit this guy to the elite point guard club, it would be helpful if he could first prove to the world that he can make a clutch jump shot in space. Sans that evidence, I fear that the Celtics will head into the playoffs with a rather significant handicap and a handicap that the Heat, Lakers and Bulls are all too ready to exploit.