Shorty's Summer School Objectives
``Used to be,'' Karl Malone once said, ``guys would come back every year with a new shot. I think a lot of great players were guys who really worked on their shot, like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. They weren't great shooters when they entered the NBA, but they worked hard to make themselves good shooters. When you can drive and then you can hit the jumper, then it's like, how are you going to stop them?"
When Magic Johnson entered the league after his sophomore year at Michigan State, he was a terrible outside shooter, and his free throw shooting wasn't much better. But he came back one off-season and suddenly everything was falling: threes, free-throws, and his slop-game from mid-range. Michael Jordan was the quintessential slasher when he joined the NBA. Over the years, he made himself into a great outside shooter.
Kevin McHale taught Kevin Garnett how to add arc to his jumper. Bill Russell improved his offensive game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar learned to score in a variety of ways, and became a better passer. Larry Bird worked on scoring with his left-hand so much that he'd spend entire games (even entire road trips) scoring more with that hand than his right hand. Anyone remember the year Larry Bird came to camp with the move where he'd back-down his opponent from 15 feet out, continuously dribbling and inching closer toward the hoop until he either drew a double, at which time he'd zip a pass to the open shooter, or he'd finally be so close to the basket that he was basically undefendable?
Every great player who later became immortal kept working on adding pieces to their game, even players who looked like they had nothing to improve (one year Wilt led the league in assists). You know what they all did? They got better at their weaknesses. They did not focus on what they did well, they went into the gym in the off-season and worked on a facet of their game that would improve them and make their teammates better.
I'm not so sure he's done anything noteworthy in this regard.
Indeed, if we were to identify his two week spots (one really), they would be jump shooting and free throw shooting (I'll call them separate skills, as history is replete with examples of players good at one but not the other).
His field-goal and free-throw percentages have gone down steadily over the past three years. He usually gets mentioned as the best or one of the best point guards in the NBA, yet typically garners little if any attention for MVP, which is kind of odd for a winning team like the Celtics.
Why might that be?
He can't score the rock consistently from outside (and sometimes doesn't finish games because of this deficiency).
If we want to believe that this is Rondo's year, a year where he become s viable MVP candidate, he needs to improve his J. It doesn't have to look prettier. Magic's set shot was uglier than ugly. It just has to go in more often. Ditto for his free throws. I've said it many times. I shot a knuckle-ball for a good part of my life, until I figured out how to cradle the ball on my finger tips. If a weekend-warrior schmo like me can do it, a world class basketball player like Rondo can too.
Are you up for the task, Shorty?
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