Monday, March 3, 2014

Set the talent free

The point guard position has always been very fascinating to me; such as the quarterback or the catcher.
They have the keys of their own team, and it’s their responsibility to adapt the team strategy to what’s really happening on the field.

Nowadays in the NBA I think that the point guard position has lost some of what makes it so special: it’s becoming more and more common to see scoring point guards, which are usually incredibly athletic and can score at a high rate, but that are not so good at reading the game or creating open shots for their teammates: shooting guards or small forwards trapped in a point guard body.
For this reason, the head coach usually makes all the calls from the bench with a precise scheme, and he’s also the one that has to make all the adjustments during the game.
The number of pure point guards can be counted on one hand, and I think the Celtics are really lucky to have one of them.

When Rondo entered the league as a young player, all the decisions were made by Doc Rivers, and it took a while for the two of them to connect and understand each other: Rondo’s confidence can rub people the wrong way, while Doc wasn’t totally prepared for a point guard like Rondo I think.
Over the years, they got to know each other, and in the last couple of seasons, Doc left Rondo his own space to make calls and read the game; and he said Rondo was the only one he’d ever coached to gain that freedom.
I remember Doc saying that more than any player in the league, Rondo needed to be in random mode from time to time, and that’s because in this way, he can take advantage of his ability to read the floor and take advantage of any unpredictable situation that can happen during the game.

This year, something has changed: young head coach Brad Stevens seems to be really prepared, and he studied a playbook for the Celtics that is set to take advantage of Rondo0s genius and experience.
I read an interesting article some weeks ago in which they said that, while in every team when the head coach call a play from the bench, you already know what the team is going to run, the Celtics have a different approach: when a number is called, the players know what to do when the play begins, but then, they can have two or three different ways to develop the play, based on what the defense is doing.

“The sets they run are more read-and-react type things than the normal execution of go from point A to B and then go on with this. He's got terminology of actions. But he's not going to play the two-man game or three-man game to see what the defense is going to give him. Instead he'll run an action and leave it to his players to read the defense. That has made it difficult to get a handle on what he's doing, because he might get three different things on three possessions all on the same play call. What they ran the first time with that terminology isn't going to be the same thing they run the second time he makes that call.”

First of all: you need a really talented floor general to do something like that.
If your point guard doesn’t have a special instinct or feel for the game, you can’t give him this responsibility. And players like this don’t show up very frequently.
But as I said, the Celtics are lucky enough to have one of them, and I think we should take advantage of this situation.
Moreover, Rondo showed more than once that he knows that he has this talent, and he’s willing to make the best out of his abilities.

Pressey said yesterday that he’s learning a lot from Rondo, and there is something that Rondo did that really struck him, something that he’s never seen anybody else doing:

When the Celtics ran through a dummy offense in practice, Rondo took turns playing point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward to learn those positions better.

"So in the game," rookie guard Phil Pressey said, "he can tell guys where they should be. I never looked at it that way and I'm pretty sure that's one of the main reasons why he is who he is."

It’s no secret by now that Rondo is a great student of the game and that he spend lots of hours breaking down films and watching other team tendencies. Even Stevens said recently that he’s never met a player that likes to study the analytical part of the game like Rondo does.
Yet, what Pressey said looks pretty amazing to me.

There are people that have a talent and don’t know what to do with it, they just leave with what has been given to them.
Rondo is not like that: he’s putting in the time and the effort to keep improving, and to become a great player.
Not everyone has the talent to see what’s going to happen before everybody else on the field, and not to everyone of those that have the right amount of talent is given the freedom to express this talent.
Right now, with Rondo and Stevens we have the rare opportunity to see and amazing talent free to reveal itself on the court.

It’s sad that most people just ignore this, but once again, I feel honored and privileged to be able to witness and understand what’s going on right now in the Celtics organization.


  1. Another key is Rondo. The old timers he played with for years got Rondo into the habit of walking the ball up. Now that he seems to be consciously trying to break that habit, you can really see that he sees what is going on all over the floor like no other player, even Larry Bird. I compare him to Bobby Orr,and I'll keep doing it. At times, he seems to have every player on the court on his strings. He knows how every move he makes can turn the kaleidoscope. If Brad is determined to help Rondo unleash this talent, we are going to see some magical basketball.

    1. I think Brad Stevens is trying to unleash Rondo's talent, and I hope to be right!!
      You're right, if they can do this, we can really see some magical basket!!

  2. Great article. I really enjoyed reading this. I have not seen this information on any other blog so thanks for the insight.

    1. Thanks!! I'm really glad you appreciated it!!

  3. Excellent work. Informative, insightful, and enthusiastic.