DALLAS – Rajon Rondo, a basketball savant who has never figured out the art of shooting, quietly observed Holger Geschwindner working with his masterpiece on the Dallas Mavericks' practice court before the All-Star break.
After his shooting session was done, Dirk Nowitzki made an offer to his point guard, if not a suggestion.
“If you want to work with Holger, now is the time,” Nowitzki told Rondo, mentioning that Rondo would be sidelined another week to 10 days due to facial fractures. “You’re more than welcome.”
As Nowitzki recalled the moment, he added: “And Holger obviously loves challenges in his life.”
Rondo’s unconventional, ineffective shooting stroke certainly represents a challenge. It’s always been the biggest flaw in the four-time All-Star’s game. That poor touch from the perimeter and midrange is the reason one of the NBA’s premier playmakers is an awkward fit in the Mavs’ free-flowing offense.
To his credit, Rondo, who earned a reputation for being difficult to coach in his younger years, embraced the opportunity to work with Dirk’s longtime mentor and shot doctor.
Rondo started shooting with Geschwindner immediately after Nowitzki made the suggestion – a partnership the media got a quick glimpse of after Thursday’s shootaround in Oklahoma City – and continued until Holger packed up his flannel shirts and blue jeans and headed back to Germany on Friday. Rondo plans to continue following the program that Geschwindner, who will return for the playoffs as is his custom, put in place.
Rondo, however, does not necessarily expect immediate results. He reasonably expects his two weeks of working with Geschwindner to be the beginning of a long-term process.
“It’s a lot different,” said Rondo, a career 26.1 percent 3-point shooter and a 31.1 percent shooter from the free throw line this season. “Some things are not comfortable, but that’s part of it. It’s early in the process. Obviously, Dirk is one of the greatest scorers of all time. He’s worked with Dirk since he was 10, 11 years old. It’s going to take some time, but he’s very positive and I pretty much understand all of his methods.”
Can Rondo progress with the program Geschwindner put in place without supervision from the German shot guru?
“It’s hard,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, I’ve been doing it, obviously, for 20 years, and when he’s gone for six weeks, sometimes I look like I haven’t shot with him in forever. Obviously, that’s when mistakes creep in. It’s hard to keep it up, but even if he just gives him one point that he thinks about when he shoots, that could help.”
No, the placement of Rondo’s shooting elbow was not the one point. For Rondo to become a respectable shooter, he will have to drastically alter his form, keeping his elbow straight underneath the ball instead of cocking it at an awkward angle. But that sort of massive mechanical overhaul is best done during the offseason, not midseason.
Geschwindner actually provided Rondo two points of emphasis: the arch of his shot and his footwork follow through.
“Sometimes I land and I’m not straight facing the basket,” Rondo said. “I think you see Dirk do it – he spreads his legs a lot when he shoots so he can stay on line. That [and] the arch on the ball.”
Rondo is far from the first of Nowitzki’s teammates who have borrowed his shot guru. Brandon Bass and Devin Harris have probably benefited the most from working with Geschwindner, who stays at Nowitzki’s home and travels with the team during his annual early-season, midseason and playoff visits.
Owner Mark Cuban has attempted to make Geschwindner a permanent member of the Mavs’ player development staff. (“If that’s the case, Cuban can pay for an apartment,” Nowitzki cracks, only half-kidding.) However, Geschwindner is committed to keeping his home base in Germany, where he still trains teenage basketball prospects.
Suffice to say, Rondo’s work with Geschwindner received the enthusiastic blessing of the Mavs’ bosses.
“Holger helps everybody he works with,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m pretty certain that work is going to be a positive thing. Holger is a pretty brilliant guy when it comes to shooting. I don’t know if there’s anybody on the planet I’d recommend more for that.”
And there are few, if any, NBA players who stand to benefit more from Holger's help than Rondo.