Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hey, Rondo: SHOOT!

Great post by Henry over at True Hoop this morning on Rajon Rondo's complete refusal to shoot jump shots this season. The numbers are ugly: Rondo is 127-for-205 in shots at or near the rim and 23-for-85 from anywhere else on the court. Taking so many shots so close is helpful in that Rondo's shooting percentage this year is up from 49 percent to 52, and he's being touted as an All-Star. 

But the hated Knicks exploited this tendency Sunday by putting the much taller Jared Jeffries on Rondo and having Jeffries play several feet off Rondo, daring him to shoot 20-foot jump shots. Rondo didn't bite, and instead used the space to get a running start on his drives to the rim. After the game, Doc Rivers said he thought that was the smart way to attack the Jeffries defense. 

As a Celtics fan, I was curious. I remembered Rondo hitting jump shots at a decent rate when the Lakers (and other teams) tried the same defense on him in the playoffs last year. I went to NBA.com's hot spots, and found out I was right. During the playoffs, Rondo shot 55-for-133 at the rim and 53-for-131 from everywhere else on the floor, a much more even split. Most important (from the perspective of a Celtics fan, at least), Rondo made 31 of 63 long two-point attempts--almost exactly half. (The trend was the same in the regular season, too. Per 82games, Rondo took 44 percent of his shots from inside last year, compared to 60 percent this year).

Point being: he can make a 15- to 20-foot jumper, and I think he should be taking those shots. If he makes about half of them, the other team will have to honor the shot, opening up the middle a bit more and making it easier for Rondo to blow by his defender and create. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't imagine the Celtics offense will be healthier in the long run if the team gives into a gimmick defense on the theory that Rondo can use the space for a running start. 


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