How Rondo is being motivated by Tony Parker

It's not a bad idea to try to take lessons from the most successful team of the past two decades. One story that seems to be quietly trickling out is that the Boston Celtics spent a lot of time researching the San Antonio Spurs offense this past offseason. Though they benefit from having Hall of Fame personnel, the Spurs 'pace and space' offense has proven to be beneficial to all that are involved. The Spurs not only consistently maximize the potential of exiled role players, but they'r frequently competitive on nights where they rest their stars - when pure talent would seem to dictate that they'd be better off calling in a forfeit. So yes, the Boston Celtics might not have it's Duncan or Ginobli, but they should be able to find their Mills and Bonner.

What's been particularly encouraging so far is that Rajon Rondo has completely bought in. The All-Star point guard recently spoke with Jessica Camerato about drawing influence form Tony Parker, in what is really a must-read article for Celtics nerds

“He’s a guy that usually dominates the ball like myself, but in the Finals he got off the ball a lot and he never stopped moving,” Rondo said of Parker. “A guy at that age, not that he’s old, but I think he’s 31 (Ed. Note: Parker is 32), to be able to move with the young guys says a lot.”

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had challenged Rondo to get in the best shape of his career for this season. When Rondo watched Parker play in the NBA Finals, he noticed his conditioning. A veteran, Parker kept up with everyone else on the floor. His contributions were key in the Spurs’ championship victory over the Miami HEAT.

Rondo decided on his own to watch Parker’s game closely; it wasn’t suggested by coaches or anyone else. The combination of Ainge’s challenge and Parker’s impressive performance motivated Rondo.

“(I like) how great of shape he’s in,” Rondo said of Parker. “He’s a guy that’s that age and at the point guard spot, he never stops.

The similarities between Rondo and Parker's skill set are obvious. They're both extremely quick, heady guards, who finish at the hoop well, and aren't particularly good three point shooters. Though Parker's mid-range game (both in catch and shoot situation as well as off the dribble) is certainly more polished and consistent, it took a while for him to mature to where he's at currently. And Rondo's right, what puts Parker on another level as a point guard is that he's constantly in motion. He finds a way to be as effective with the ball, as he does without it. That's a lot easier said than done; it takes a good deal of thinking, and a whole lot of endurance.

And to this point, he's done more than just pay lip-service. Rondo's shown a clear effort to be a little more Parkonian. Let's review a few plays, the first, from the game against Dallas.

Rondo motions to Jeff Green come to the elbow, immediately passes to him, and then begins to dive towards the paint. Which in itself is different for Rondo. He's used to initiating the offense with the ball in his hands, and previously when he didn't, he'd find himself hovering at the top of the key (where he's completely ineffective until he gets the ball again).

please forgive the graininess of the photos. It was between using this, and a higher quality image with a play button in the middle

Rondo's man has to stay close to him both to prevent an easy pass in the interior as well as in case he needs to fight through a pick that could be set by Sullinger. Once Jeff Green passes to Kelly Olynyk, Rondo jets back to the top of the key

With all the quick motion to start, Rondo is able to catch the ball with a great deal of space. While he obviously isn't a great shooter, the space provides more than just an open 3; he's presented with two fairly sizable driving lanes (which he doesn't use) and also plenty of space for passing lanes ( which he does use, as he delivers an alley oop pass to Jeff Green).

The whole thing can be seen in the video below, it's the first play of the highlight:

To me, you can see through three games, Rondo is clearly making a deliberate effort to spend less time with the ball. Often times going as far as allowing another playmaker to initiate the offense, or hitting them on an elbow and cutting to the corner very early on in the play. Previously, complaints about Rondo have been around the lack of options he provides; that he spends too much time getting into an offense, and when a pick and roll doesn't work, often he falls victim of dribbling in the same place until he's forced to either take a shot or pass to a teammate for an uncontested one.

While there's no doubt he's best with the ball in his hand, sometimes not initiating things can be to his benefit. Take a look at the following play. Rondo drives to the right, and quickly gets the ball to Brandon Bass at the top of the key.

Though Bass isn't the world' best shooter from distance, he commands enough respect from his defender to at least be within a few feet. This opens up a few things; Jared Sullinger could cut down the paint and be able to catch the ball in the post with space, or Bass could pass the ball to either player on the wing (Rondo, Bradley) and set a pick for them.

After Bass initially fumbles the pass, Rondo loops back to get the ball from Bass. Rondo's defender (Isaiah Canaan) is forced to fight an initial pick on the exchange

After receiving the ball Rondo then forces Canaan into fighting through a second pick set by Bass. That pick provides a decent amount of separation between Rondo and Canaan, and forces Bass' man (Dwight Howard) to help. That allows Bass an open cutting lane, and Rondo's able to deliver a strike to allow Bass the lay in.

The whole video can be seen here

I don't mean to suggest that these dramatic changes, and the Spurs this team isn't. But Tony Parker is the right kind of player for Rondo to be trying to emulate. And even if it's just three games in, it's encouraging to see him try his best to stick to what he's learned.