Roberto Serra/Iguana Press
ESPN's Magic Johnson believes Rajon Rondo would be better serving his team if he took more shots and scored more points. He may be onto something.
As part of the incessant, seemingly never-ending quest to figure out who, exactly, Rajon Rondo really is, we may have been given a clue over the Christmas holiday by none other than Magic Johnson.
You see, Magic loves Rondo. He's an unabashed fan and why wouldn't he be? Magic was probably the greatest point guard of all time and Rondo sees the floor, distributes the ball and seems to have eyes in the back of his head in much the same way Magic did for all of those years winning championships for the Lakers.
But Magic has been looking, publicly, for Rondo to add another element to his game for a little while now and at halftime of ESPN's telecast of the Celtics' 93-76 Christmas Day win over the Nets, he called for it again.
Magic wants to Rondo to shoot more and subsequently to score more too.
It's not a bad idea. The Celtics are still entirely too dependent on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to supply their offense with the majority of its scoring and while Pierce showed us last week that he's still capable of leading an offense and taking over a game, it simply isn't fair or even conceivable to assume that he can put up back-to-back 35-plus games whenever he sees fit at his advanced age.
Garnett too has found himself a new gear offensively in the past year or so. He's turned himself into a lethal jump shooter who has excellent range from anywhere between 10 and 20 feet from the rim. His outside shot carried the Celts at times during last season's run to the Eastern Finals and his 15.8 points per game was his highest average since his second season as a Celtic.
KG can still shoot it but he's now 36 years old, he's pretty much forbidden from playing more than 30 minutes per night, he's only taking 12 shots per game and he's being asked to single-handedly anchor a defense and a front court that so far this season has shown few signs of being up to par. It doesn't feel like that good of an idea to count on him as the second option on offense, even on nights when Pierce is feeling it.
So who does that leave? Jeff Green, despite a nice game against the Nets, is still far too inconsistent to count on in that regard. Jared Sullinger has shown flashes of being a 15-18 point guy but he's also a rookie and is not innately talented enough on the offensive end to take on that role. And Jason Terry, while still a gifted shooter and scorer, is a jump-shooter and as we saw when he went 1-for-15 in last week's loss to Milwaukee, he's still a streaky jump-shooter too.
That leaves Rondo, who Magic believes could score 20 points a night with his eyes closed if he simply put his mind to it. Rondo is averaging a career high 13.7 points per game and his 51 percent shooting from the field leads all guards in the NBA.
The thing is, he's upped that scoring average while taking not even a full shot more per night than he did last season. In 2011-2012, Rondo averaged 11.9 points on 10.8 field goal attempts. This season, the 13.7 points are coming on 11.3 field goal attempts.
The difference, of course is the shooting percentage, which is up from 44.8 percent last year. But what Magic is saying that if Rondo were to simply shoot the ball a little bit more, like say maybe 15 times per game, he could score 20 and those extra six or seven points every night would take a huge load off of the backs of Pierce and KG, not only now, but come playoff time when the two old fogies are likely to be a lot more worn down than they are right now.
We all know Rondo can score if he feels like it. Remember the 44-point explosion in Game 2 against the Heat last June? That was the highlight. Looking back at the numbers, Rondo scored 17.3 points per night in 19 playoff games last season, taking just under 16 shots per game. It's seemingly not in his makeup to even think about shooting first and passing second. But if he's worried at all that shooting and scoring that much won't allow him to distribute and find his teammates as much as he usually does, someone may want to point out to him that he also dished out 11.9 assists in those 19 postseason games, which led the league.
The Celtics are in the middle of the pack thus far in points per game and offensive rating (14th and 17th, respectively). As bogged down as the offense gets from time to time, the Celts' biggest problems this season have been on defense, particularly around the rim, as well as getting all of their less experienced faces involved and on the same page. If Rondo, who is the team leader in minutes played by far, would assert himself on offense some more, it would be safe to assume that given his improved shooting skills and his ability to get to the rim whenever he wants, the team's offense would be that much better, and that much more dangerous.
On Thursday night, the C's open a Western swing against the red-hot Clippers before visiting the also impressive Golden State Warriors on Saturday night in Oakland. Both of those teams have point guards who can score as well any in the league in addition to running the team and getting plenty of assists. The Clippers' Chris Paul averaged 20 per game last year and is at 16 this season, yet is second to only Rondo in assists per game.
Golden State's Stephen Curry, meanwhile, is dishing 6.4 assists a night, still a more than serviceable number, while scoring 20.2 on just 16.4 field goal attempts per game.
That's just about what Magic thinks Rondo both can and should do.