Seeing as Rajon Rondo is the only member of the Boston Celtics currently engaged in legitimate, meaningful, organized basketball competition, I suppose it's only natural for him to garner the majority of the headlines at this point in the summer. So, here's a completely Rondo-related version of Celtics Notes.
We begin with some good stuff from Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston.
Doc Rivers Encouraged Rondo's Participation With Team USA
For those wondering where various members of the Celtics' coaching staff or management group stood on Rondo's participation with Team USA, Doc Rivers was on board all along.
Back in Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday that he encouraged Rondo to compete for the national team this summer despite coming off a season in which he appeared in over 100 games (regular season and postseason combined). Rivers pointed to the fact that Rondo is only 24 years old and is comfortable with him playing the 15-20 minutes per game that coach Mike Krzyzewski suggested he'd play at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey (Rivers did jokingly tell Krzyzewski that he could play Chicago's Derrick Rose upwards of 40 minutes per game).
I can't see 15-20 minutes per game hindering Rondo to the point that he's putting his season with the Celtics in any sort of jeopardy. The only way this can go wrong at all is if Rondo is hit by the injury bug.
Celtics to Employ Team USA's Defense?
Rivers also noted that Team USA will incorporate some defensive schemes that the Celtics plan to integrate next season, so he thinks the experience will actually help Rondo prepare for the 2010-11 season.
The team's defense should be a hot topic throughout next season (assuming we don't see a regular season like that of last year's). How will it compare to the defense we've seen out of this core group of guys over these last three seasons? If there is a noticeable drop off, will we attribute it more to the departure of Tom Thibodeau, or to the older guys just being another year older? I know Lawrence Frank was brought in as a sort of replacement for Thibodeau, but I'm not so sure a guy like Thibbs can have his spot filled so easily. You know how we use that line, "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him?" when referring to the outstanding production of a player? Well, I think Thibbs falls into a modified version of that line. Something like: "You can't replace him, you can only stick a guy in his old chair and hope he produces at least half of the results". Yeah, something like that.
Doc Says Rondo's Free Throw Shooting is a Top Priority
Rivers said he'd like to see Rondo improve on his free-throw shooting this offseason, nothing that's a bigger priority over even his outside shot because being a more consistent free-throw shooter will prevent Rondo from being discouraged in driving to the basket.
I'm totally on board with Rondo coming back next season as a better free throw shooter, along with every other Celtics fan in the entire universe. I'd even argue that it's a necessity, as opposed to an added luxury.
Update: Dan Duggan of the Herald informs us that Rondo will once again be working with Mark Price on his jumper this summer.
Rondo Leaves Team USA Practice Do to Death in Family
Rondo left Team USA's practice in New York yesterday due to the unfortunate death of his uncle in Kentucky. However, Rondo was expected to return to New York last night, and should be ready for a promotional shoot for the team tonight. According to A. Sherrod Blakely, who's currently in New York covering the team, the missed session shouldn't have any impact on whether or not Rondo makes the final roster.
While the competition is tight, Colangelo said Rondo's absence won't have any bearing on his status with the team.
"We have to be flexible, and things happen," Colangelo said. "You kind of roll with things like that. He should have been where he is, when something like that (a death in the family) happens."
Team USA Focused on Pressure Defense and Three-Point Shooting
They are going to use a lot of pressure defenses, and they are going to bomb threes.
The defensive pressure thing is nothing new -- the USA has used that consistently under Mike Krzyzewski. It also makes a ton of sense. The USA has the best athletes in international ball so use that to put pressure on opposing ball handlers, force turnovers then convert those into transition points.
Rondo's battling for a spot at point guard with Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, and Russell Westbrook. Rondo's the best defensive point guard out of that group, but, unfortunately, he's also the worst three-point shooter. If Team USA is looking for the point guard who fits both of those objectives the finest, then Westbrook might actually be the best choice. However, if Mike Krzyzewski is more focused on defense than scoring, Rondo might just hold an edge. The way Doc mentioned Rondo's projected minutes, he makes it sound like Rondo's already earned a spot on the final team. Unless he was talking about the minutes Rondo might play in the team's scrimmage against France this Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
This is a pretty cool caricature of Rondo. Most of the time, these types of things are reserved for the stars, so perhaps this is just further proof of Rondo's ascension both as a player and a personality/name in the league.