One reassuring, one not-so-reassuring:
• Rajon has played 40 minutes or more in 23 regular season games since entering the league in 2006-07, according to Basketball Reference.
Six of those 23 games have come since Dec. 22 of this season, including a career-high (for the regular season) 50-plus minutes at Miami in last week’s OT classic.
I know he’s a young guy, but he has been carrying a heavy load for the last three weeks.
• Rajon has now played in 34 games this season, and if you break his season in half you see some positive trends from the foul line.
First 17 games: 9-26 (34.5 percent) on 1.5 foul shot attempts per game.
Last 17 games: 50-74 (68 percent) on 4.4 foul shot attempts per game.
To me, the attempts are more important than the percentages. Barring some sort of bizarre Steve Blass/Steve Sax/Rick Ankiel thing, Rajon was not going to shoot 40 percent from the foul line over the course of the season. Now, 68 percent is not what one might call a good free throw percentage. You want your guards shooting 75 percent or better from the line, especially if they handle the ball as much as Rajon. (And if you want to play Small Sample Size Theater—and who doesn’t!—Rajon is 21-of-26, or 81 percent, from the stripe in his last five games).
But 70 percent is progress, even if it’s progress we all knew would come fast. (And it would be an improvement over his 64 percent mark last season).
The lack of attempts early was more problematic, and it had Kelly Dwyer and I (and most sentient Celtic fans) speculating that Rondo wasn’t driving to the rim aggressively late in games because he wanted no part of the foul line.
I think we can put that fear to rest—for now.
If Rajon averages about 4.4 free throw attempts per game, it will put him into the upper echelon of guards in that category, according to Basketball Reference. That per-game figure would rank about 22nd in the league among guards, right with Chris Paul, Jason Terry and Will Bynum, guys not exactly known for being shy around the rim or (in Terry’s case) at the end of games.
Now, let’s get the kid some rest tonight on the second night of a back-to-back, Doc. How does 38 minutes sound? What about 35?