1. Rondo Misses Could Put C's Season On Line
BOSTON -- Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is struggling at the free throw line and coach Doc Rivers openly wondered if those woes were causing his All-Star guard to be less aggressive going to the rim against the Lakers.
After a slow start to the regular season at the charity stripe (38.5 percent through November), Rondo rebounded to shoot 62.1 percent for the season. But his numbers are down for the playoffs, especially in the Finals.
Rondo is 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from the stripe against the Lakers and 67-of-110 (60.9 percent) for the postseason. Ever since Cleveland got rough with Rondo early in the Eastern Conference semifinals, his numbers have declined. In Game 1 against the Cavaliers, he produced a 12-for-14 effort at the line, but he has struggled to shoot over 50 percent most nights since then.
"I'm always likely to go to the basket," a defiant Rondo said Saturday. "I'm going to the basket, regardless of Bynum, Dwight Howard or whoever's down there."
But even his coach said the free throw troubles might have subconsciously given Rondo pause, even if just temporarily. The Celtics are working on both the mental and physical aspects of his free throw shooting.
"We're going to work on it," Rivers said. "He knows what he's not doing, we know what he's not doing. Last summer [assistant coach] Armond [Hill] went down [and] I went down and watched him and [former NBA standout] Mark [Price] work on it. There's certain things that he has to do. Clearly the first two he was -- nothing that he can be taught, I can tell you that, he fell away, his elbow was out. The first one you could see it right away. So we'll get it back.
"But then the confidence part has to come back as well. I will say this: I was really proud of him because I thought in [Game 3] when he missed a couple, he stopped driving, and that's what happens when you miss free throws and then you don't want to get fouled anymore. I thought [Thursday] night [in Game 4], he kept taking it to the basket, and for me that was huge. That's a good sign for him."
Rondo posted a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in Boston's Game 2 triumph. He has only 21 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists over the past two games.
What's more, he hasn't shot more than five freebies in a contest since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Orlando.
Rivers said his antenna went up in Game 3, but he's simply keeping an eye on Rondo's body language.
"Just in Game 3, I thought was the only game," said Rivers. "I thought he just tended not to drive more. But I thought he went right back to it. So that's how much he's grown. A year ago or two years ago, that may have been the last layup of the series and [Thursday] night in the third quarter he came out, he was aggressive, he was attacking, and that's who he has to be.
"I think he was basically saying that to himself, I'm going to go in here and get fouled and make my free throws. That might have been the best sign of [Thursday] night for me for him because that showed me that he was going to be aggressive the rest of the series. And I think, because of that, he'll be a factor the rest of the series."
Rondo conceded he was simply "OK" in Boston's Game 4 win, but noted part of that was his attempt to get captain Paul Pierce going.
"I'm not a guy that tries to get myself off," said Rondo. "If a shooter has it going, it's about sacrifice. Paul had it going early and we thought he had a matchup and took advantage. I don't really care. Regardless of how bad I played, we got the win."
Chris Forsberg is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.
2. Perkins, Sheed One T From Suspension
BOSTON -- Through the first four games of the NBA Finals, the Lakers have contended they are above trying to bait Celtics center Kendrick Perkins into his seventh technical foul of this postseason, which would result in an automatic one-game suspension.
Now that Rasheed Wallace has joined Perkins on the brink of suspension after picking up his sixth technical foul in Game 4, and with Andrew Bynum's status becoming an eternal question mark, are the Lakers still not looking to push any buttons in Game 5 to weaken Boston's frontline when the series goes back to Los Angeles?
"That's not fair play," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "That's not the way to play. Yeah, you can be provocative and get out there and act kind of like they do if you want to and get in people's faces and do that. But that's not the way I like to coach a team. That's not what I consider positive coaching, and that's what I like to think is the right way to do things."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers doesn't necessarily agree with Jackson's assessment that the Lakers have not been instigators when it comes to Perkins and expects them to do the same with Wallace in Game 5 now that he's in the same predicament.
"I thought in the last game, even though they say they didn't, I thought [Pau] Gasol -- I thought there was a lot of extra stuff going on," Rivers said. "And they're right, obviously, we put ourselves in this predicament with Perk, and I thought Perk did a great job of walking away. It's clearly the new Perk. I hadn't seen that side of him."
Perkins has understood the situation he's been in since picking up his sixth technical foul in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals (he had a seventh rescinded) and isn't looking to slip up now that the Celtics are two wins away from winning the championship.
"It's in my mind, I'm not trying to get ejected, I'm not trying to get suspended or nothing like that," Perkins said. "I'm going to play hard and I'm going to play smart. I got three games left. Doc tells me to hold my composure. Sometimes the tougher guy has to walk away. I have to make sure I'm there for my teammates and do my job. It's hard because I'm the enforcer on the team so sometimes I want to instigate a problem, but I can't do that."
Rivers has addressed the situation with Perkins and Wallace and doesn't expect either to get another technical foul in the series. But if one does, he hopes it will be in a possible Game 7.
"I'm hoping obviously there is no Game 7, but if it happens, let's let it happen in Game 7, then we're fine," Rivers said. "There's no other game they can get suspended. It's really only two games they have to get through if you think about it, it's not three. I don't want them to be less emotional. I want them to play their games but also have some discipline. That's about all we can do."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
4. NBA Finals Schedule: June 13
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Leprechaun Shadow
7. KG: Big Three Not Enough
ESPN The Magazine
Oh, he's gone along with it -- fooling around with various nicknames in an ESPN commercial, posing with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on magazine covers, sitting for interviews with his two star teammates.
Garnett understands the way the marketing game is played, that somebody has to feed the media beast.
But in his heart, in the Celtics' locker room, on the club's practice court, the team plane, KG has always been anti-Big Three. If you want to throw in Rajon Rondo, then KG is anti-Big Four, or Big Three Plus One, or Rondo and The Big Three, or whatever other terms folks are using these days to separate the best of the Celtics from the rest of the Celtics.
• To read the entire column, click here
8. Person, Behind The Scenes
In 2001-02, Chuck Person's first year back in the city where he spent the first six seasons of his career, the Pacers acquired a young player with tremendous talent but a troubling attitude.
That player was Ron Artest.
Indiana needed to find a way through Artest's prickly shell to enjoy the fruits that his game had to offer.
Person went to work.
Artest averaged 10.9 points in his first half-season in Indiana. That number jumped to 15.5 points in 2002-03 and 18.3 in 2003-04.
"Without Chuck, I wouldn't have been an All-Star," Artest said. "I was good, I was all right, I had really good defense, but then Chuck turned my offensive game and he made me a threat. That's when it started. I was always able to play basketball, don't get me wrong, but Chuck made me a threat."
• To read the entire story, click here
9. Doctor In The House
Q: Now having attended a Finals game here, how would you compare the crowd to back to the 1980s? Is the passion, intensity and knowledge of the game for the fans now around here still as strong, compared to your Garden visits back in the day?
Julius Erving: The arena has changed, they've actually cleaned it up quite well, (laughs) needed it from the old Garden. But the intensity, crowd and their passion for the team has not changed. The fans here are 100 percent behind their team. Just sitting there during Game 3, they were giving it to all the Laker fans sitting around me, and it was funny to me since it reminded me of the 1980s.
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