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Rajon Rondo’s never-ending search for a free throw that works

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) October 26, 2012 Celtics News, Rajon Rondo, Videos 8 Comments

One of the most impressive turn-around this preseason has been Rajon Rondo’s free throw shooting.  He shot 77% from the line, giving us the hope that his effectiveness can continue, and provide the Celtics a new scoring weapon.

But one thing stood out with Rondo at the line.  His routine looks different.  Every coach in the basketball world will tell you that a good, consistent routine at the line is a key element to a good percentage.  It’s a bit like a golf swing… if you can find a successful motion and replicate it, you’ll be ok.

We all know Rajon has struggled from the line.  And while he’s been accused of not working on it, it’s clear looking back over his routine from the free throw line over the years that he has… and he just hasn’t found a routine that works for him.

When I noticed something different about Rondo from the line this preseason, I turned to Jay, our video expert, and asked him if he noticed the same thing too.  The result is five years worth of evidence that Rondo has been on a quest for the right routine.

Here he is in 2008:

The routine:  eyes down, 3 dribbles, crouch, spot the rim, shoot with a high, exaggerated release.

2010 (we had technical difficulties with 2009):

The routine:  a hamstring stretch, get the ball from the ref, shake the shoulders loose, one dribble, spot the rim, crouch, shoot with a more normal, not as exaggerated release.

2011:

The routine:  receive the ball, shake the shoulders loose, 3 dribbles, spot the rim,  much less of a crouch, usual release.

2012: 

The routine:  receive the ball, set feet, check the rim, one dribble, spot the rim, comfortable crouch, usual release.

2013:

The routine:  shake wrists loose, receive the ball, check the rim,  one dribble, spot the rim, crouch and directly into shooting motion.

The only consistency from year to year was from last year’s playoffs to this year’s preseason.  The routine gave Rondo some success starting in the second round of last year’s playoffs, where he shot 13-17 vs. Philadelphia, and 21-30 vs. Miami.

The big change from last year to this year is the motion is more fluid.  In the past, he’s pause in the crouch, exaggerating every bit of the shooting motion.  That’s a problem because every hitch in your shot is an opportunity for it to go wrong. No jump shooter has any hitches in his shot when he’s playing.  So Rondo this preseason has dipped into his crouch and gone into a more fluid motion with his shot.

He does that wrist loosening thing now too… it kind of looks like a “who’s got 2 thumbs and is about to make this free throw?  THIS GUUUUUYYYY” kind of thing.  If it works for him, great.  I rather enjoy it.

Consistency at the line is a key.  When you think about a good free throw shooter… let’s use Kevin Durant as an example… they all have the same motion.  I use Durant because he does that little shimmy thing with his shoulder before every free throw.  It works for him, and it’s never changed.

Here’s hoping Rondo has found a shot that works.  For once, his routine is starting to look fluid.  If the preseason results are truly a result of this newfound stroke, then Rondo might be onto something that addresses one major flaw in his game.

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  • Jester00

    he is no Mark price but no shaq either

  • vivek NJ

    2013?

    • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

      well, 2012-13 season. I just went by the end year

      • Jester00

        I agree, you r right, Word!!!!!!!! free T-shirt???????

  • RedsLoveChild

    Rondo`s FT% vs. the Lakers since 2008 Finals :

    -Regular season games he`s shot 80% {12 for 15}
    -Playoffs games {2010} he`s shot 26% {5 for 19}

    Solution : Just tell Rondo, as he steps up to the line, that he`s playing the Lakers AND it`s the regular season.

    • Chulinho

      If he just gets to the line more, that will be an improvement. He’s averaged 2.8 FTA for his career. For a guy that can get into the lane and who’s sneaky around the rim, that’s low.

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  • Ace-One

    He’s definitely tinkered with his FT form over the years. In the 2008 vid, he has a pretty big stagger in his stance, with his left foot almost a full length behind his right. In 2010 and 2011, he changes to a square stance, with both feet touching the line. In 2012 and this year’s preseason, he’s back to a less exaggerated stagger, with his left just a couple inches behind his right. I think that’s good, since most good FT shooters (Ray, Calderon, Nash, Price) have a very slight stagger (Dirk shoots square up).

    Up top, his motion seems a little smoother and his shot feels softer. His misses stay on the rim more, rather than bouncing hard. Maybe his balance and rhythm are improving. He still seems to be palming the ball a little, rather than shooting more off the fingertips. I’d also like to see him shoot more off the side of his forehead rather than from his ear (of course Larry Bird had that catapult motion from practically behind his head, but he seemed to do okay with it).

    The pre-shot ritual is amusing for fans, but it doesn’t affect the shot much (except insofar as getting the player comfortable). What matters is the FT mechanics and consistency from the “ready” position to the end of the follow through. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but it seems like Rondo’s making some slight improvements.