It’s all about Rajon Rondo in the papers this morning, and the Herald’s Steve Bulpett has this interesting tidbit about Lester Hudson’s value as (for now) a practice player who competes with Rajon:
The two go at it before games, and with Hudson a bit taller with a longer wingspan, he’s steeled Rondo for the test after tipoff.
“I think it’s starting to help me a lot finishing on the break and making my one-on-one moves, and especially with my ballhandling,” said Rondo
“I can’t have the same moves. I have to have different moves when I play against Lester. He gets me going before the game, helping me finish shots. He’s a physical player. He’s about 6-(foot)-3 and he has long arms and he’s a big, strong guard, so I love playing against him every game. It kind of gets me going.”
Really interesting stuff. I’ve written before about how Rondo looks much more comfortable as as scorer when matched up with shorter point guards. (Think of how he attacked the Thunder’s Mike Wilks—5’1o”—with a score-first aggression we rarely had seen before in the few minutes Wilks was in the game last week). That’s why his 20 shots attempts against Washington were so surprising—many of them were tough, contested floaters and lay-ins Rondo normally passes up. His airborne dump-off passes became predictable, allowing defenders to anticipate them and get a split-second head start on rotating to the big guy receiving the pass.
So this is progress.
• In the same Herald piece, Doc continues to encourage Rondo to shoot jumpers when open:
Rondo’s problem at times has been his willingness. More confident after dealing with Hudson, he’s been taking the jumper with less hesitation lately.
“That’s what we tell him,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Once it’s your shot, it’s your shot. There’s no more passing or being a point guard. When it’s time to shoot, it’s time to shoot. You’re a shooter.”
Remember: About 11 months ago, the Knicks stuck Jared Jeffries on Rondo and basically left him unguarded outside the paint. Rajon wouldn’t shoot; instead, he used the extra space to build up speed and drive to the hoop. And Doc encouraged that strategy.
So this season’s “take the shot if you’re open” mantra is new, and necessary for Rajon’s advancement as a player.
And Rajon feels he is advancing.
Via the Globe’s Julian Benbow:
In the Celtics’ nine-game winning streak, he’s averaging 12.9 points, 10 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.7 steals.
“I’m pretty confident right now, offensively and defensively,’’ he said. “The floor seems so spaced. I’ve got the greatest players in the world playing with me. The floor is so wide open and with as great players as I’m playing with, when they don’t help off of those guys I get to drive and get layups. And if they do, I pick them apart, getting the ball to my teammates.’’
Six of Rondo’s 10 double-doubles have come in the Celtics’ recent tear, including a near triple-double against Milwaukee (11 points, 13 assists, 9 rebounds).
• In other news, the Celtics play the Bulls tonight, and from here until eternity, any game against the Bulls will prompt reflection on last year’s epic first-round series. Here’s Ray Allen making me feel a little better about myself (via the same piece from Herald):
“I remember seven games,” Ray Allen said. “I remember a lot of overtimes. People ask me about the series, and honestly I have no idea which one was Game 5, which one was Game 4. It was just so much basketball and so many overtimes that it was just great to be a part of.”
I sometimes feel the same way about that series. I remember the general story arc of each game—who won, who lost, the general ebb and flow and who hit the big shots—but I occasionally find myself saying things like, “Wait, did Tony Allen stupidly foul Ben Gordon at the end of Game 4? Or Game 6?” It’s good to know the games can blend in for the guys who played them, too.
• The Bulls won last night, by the way, saving Vinny Del Negro’s job for now. The Bulls have made their last three coaching changes around Christmas, so the team has no history of being patient with in-season dismissals.
Overall, Chicago can’t score and they’ve lost 9 of their last 11 games. Brendan will have a full preview for you later tonight.