Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo


Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo

By Rich Levine

WALTHAM Back in the 2008 Finals, as the Celtics were on the way to their first title in 22 years and Rajon Rondo (only 22 years old at the time) was still fighting to find his role alongside the Big 3, the Lakers employed unique Rondo-specific defense that gave the young point guard fits.

Basically, Phil Jackson had Kobe guard Rondo, but not really guard him. Instead, having Bryant sag off No. 9, take advantage of his faulty jumper (and confidence) and use the extra space to wreak havoc everywhere else. As Rondo stood on the perimeter, unable andor willing to shoot, Bryant hedged off screens, doubled in the post and in the process essentially rendered Rondo ineffective.

The Celtics pulled out the series, but the blueprint for limiting Rondo had been laid out.

Three years later and that defense is still a hot topic.

Expect a healthy helping as Boston and Miami take off in round two.

Youll see Chalmers and Bibby guarding Rondo, but youll also LeBron and Wade, Doc Rivers said. Theyll go to the Rondo Defense and theyll be trapping off him and helping off him, and how we handle that will be key to this series."

But Rondos come along way since the 2008 Finals. Sure, the Sag-Off-Rondo defense is still probably the best way to defend him, but its not automatic. Hes learned how to beat it or at least, play around it.

The most effective thing he can do is just move without the ball. As hes moving, LeBron or Wade or whoever cant just leave him to trap. If theyre forced to chase Rondo around (especially if he can slash through the lane), so much of their focus will be occupied there, and they can be as helpful elsewhere.

On top of staying active, Rivers highlighted some other ways for Rondo to stay effective: Getting into the offensive pace, he said. Attacking, being a pace-setter. And he does it well, I think hes handled it very well this year.

Kevin Garnett agrees.

(Rondos) gotten more confident in his style and play, he said. Hes not afraid to hit the 15-17 foot jumper and does a good job of mixing his play. Slow, fast, fast slow; he keeps defense on their heels and we need him to be aggressive all series.

When asked about the potential sagging defense, Rondo was predictably coy, hinting that well all find out the answer on Sunday.

I dont know, he said. Everybody plays different. Well see Game 1.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.