DALLAS -- Just imagine if Rajon Rondo had a reliable jump shot.
Is that a pipe dream for a 28-year-old point guard who is a career 25.5 percent 3-point shooter? The Dallas Mavericks definitely don’t think so.
“I see him as a guy who hasn’t reached his ceiling as a player, as good as he’s been,” coach Rick Carlisle said during Rondo’s introductory news conference after the blockbuster deal with the Boston Celtics.
Rondo is leading the league in assists for the third time in four seasons. He’s been a four-time All-Defensive selection. He’s averaging more rebounds than any other guard in the NBA.
In terms of areas for potential improvement, Rondo’s poor shooting sticks out like a wart on a model’s nose.
As is often the case with Rondo, the Mavs take comfort in a Jason Kidd comparison. The point guard who was derisively called “Ason” for much of his career -- no J -- developed into an outstanding spot-up shooter during his second stint in Dallas. Kidd shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in two straight seasons.
Can Rondo make similar strides as a shooter in the second half of his career?
“I never make predictions, but all I know is he’s working hard at it, and you didn’t see him back down from shooting them,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said, noting that Rondo displayed his dedication by getting in extra work on his own Christmas night. “A guy who is that in tuned to winning isn’t just going to say, ‘Well, I hope they go in.’ He’s been in here working hard at off hours, so that tells you all you need to know.”
Carlisle, as he’s done with several players, has made Rondo’s perimeter stroke one of his personal projects. The coach often supervises the point guard’s shooting sessions, providing pointers.
“We’re working on some mild mechanic things, mostly rhythm, rhythm and footwork,” Carlisle said. “As we go along, we’ll just chip away at the little things we need to chip away at. His shot is better than a lot of people want to believe it is.”
Well, the results certainly aren’t pretty.
Rondo has shot better than 30 percent from 3-point range only once in his career, back in 2008-09, when he had only 48 long-distance attempts all season. By comparison, Kidd shot worse than 30 percent from 3-point range only twice in 19 seasons.
To put it politely, there’s an awful lot of room for Rondo to improve.
Not surprisingly, it’s not a subject Rondo seems to enjoy discussing. Asked about his shooting work with Carlisle, Rondo offered a brief description.
“Just getting my shot up, getting arc on the ball,” Rondo said. “Just getting arc on the ball.”
“It’s rhythm and repetition,” Carlisle said. “There are things with everybody’s shot you can tweak a little bit and help get better. The things in season that I feel like we can tweak we’ll tweak, but this is not the time of year for a major overhaul. It’s a time for him to figure out where his shots are coming from, what level of aggression we’d like him to have and what works within the context of our offense.
“He’s doing a good job of all that. I’m not really looking at shooting percentages. I’m looking at process and aggression and all those kinds of things, and the results will take care of themselves.”