Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is a very poor shooter. From the free throw line, he has gone from mediocre to downright abysmal. Rather than taking Rondo to task for his performance, an article by Celtics beat writer A. Sherrod Blakely at CSNNE on the subject is all but an excuse-making session for a professional basketball player, a ball-handling guard, no less, being such a poor free throw shooter. Rondo’s coach, Brad Stevens, talks as if there is simply some fine tuning and a confidence issue.
“The only way that it’s going to be brought up is by everybody else on the outside,” Stevens said. “So all we’re going to do is encourage and try to help in the small ways we can. But it’s about feeling good about yourself, about going in and knocking the next one in. That’s a lot easier said than done. That’s something that, I want him on the line again in a tie game with a minute to go. He’ll make those.”
Really? Seems Rondo has been a terrible free throw shooter his entire career, making a dismal 61.5% (the league average is over 78%) over nine seasons. He has two years in which he failed to make 60%, and so far this season he has been historically bad. Rondo is just 9 for 28 from the free throw line, 32.1% thus far in 2014-15. And he is the guy that is the Celtics’ ball handler, the one who needs to be automatic from the line, because he is the one you want with the ball and a lead in the closing seconds of a tight game. Except he stinks from the free throw line. And for years, the Celtics have inserted other players in those situations specifically because their “star” point guard is so bad in the clutch. You want him on the line in a tie game, coach? Funny, so does the other team. Methinks you are full of it.
But don’t worry, Rondo promises to get into the gym and “fix” his problem.
“I’m gonna work on it,” Rondo said. “I don’t have the answer on it now. When I figure it out, I start making nine-for-10 I’ll let you know what I did to tweak it.”
Gee, thanks for the effort. For a salary of $12.9 million, or $35,000 A DAY, one is glad to know that you are willing to put in the work. After how many years of piss-poor performance? How many games has it cost your team in the regular season and playoffs? After nine professional seasons, NOW you are going to “work on it”? And then this bit of new-age athletic advice from Coach Stevens:
“So I think that, you go in, put your work in. It doesn’t have to be thousands and thousands of hours. It doesn’t have to be hundreds and hundreds of free throws every session. Just get it right, and move on. And believe in yourself to make the next one because the people around you support you.”
Sorry, Brad, it IS thousands of hours. Confidence comes with practice. Thousands and tens of thousands of shots, practicing proper form and fundamentals. Drills for the fingertips, against a wall. Time in an empty gym. A lot of time. Dedication, and hard work. Something fewer and fewer professional athletes are willing to put in to turn their talents into skills. It has nothing to do with “support”. Good gravy. Such excuse-making is a source of increasing frustration for me and many others who have been watchers of professional sports. I routinely turn off games in which I see the mediocrity on display that denotes a lack of hard work, and a lack of mastery of fundamentals. Empty my wallet to buy a ticket to watch it live? Not a chance. I don’t want to hear how much you burn to win on game day, when you cannot be bothered to put in the sweat on practice day. An hour a day in the gym (positing an 8 hour day, Rondo makes $4,500 an hour) shooting free throws is pretty good work if you can get it.
Despite Rondo’s assurances, I doubt he will get any better, except for fleeting stretches here and there. He hasn’t in nine professional seasons. And he has been unwilling to put in the work to improve. Short of some sort of physical disorder, if he’d have worked, he would be better. Rondo remains what he has been for his entire career, an awful free throw shooter and poor jump shooter whose shortcomings continue to hurt his team.
If you want to be the star of the team and you stink, don’t be surprised if your team stinks. And if you are the star and are unwilling to work, don’t be surprised if your teammates aren’t willing to work. And don’t be surprised if I, and many like me, change the channel.