Can Rajon Rondo's injury help improve Boston Celtics guard's shooting?
Injured Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo shoots baskets before Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the New York Knicks in Boston, Friday, April 26, 2013.
Look, I get it. If you're a Boston Celtics fan, you probably don't want to think much about Iman Shumpert .
The New York Knicks wing was great in the first round as his team dispatched Boston; indeed, one of the prevailing images of the entire series was Shumpert mocking Jason Terry's airplane celebration after drilling two 3-pointers in Game 6. Shumpert also spent some time playing Paul Pierce's schoolyard bully, repeatedly holding Pierce upside-down and shaking him until his lunch money (or in this case, a basketball) fell to the ground.
So you may not want to think about Shumpert. But recent comments he made about his improved shooting can be reassuring as we wonder how Rajon Rondo might look when he returns from a torn ACL.
"Definitely," Shumpert said when asked if a serious injury suffered last postseason helped his shooting (viaSheridanHoops.com). "There’s different stages of the rehab. When I was finally able to walk I couldn’t jump, so you know, I was doing all form shooting."
After coming back from a torn ACL and mensicus in January, Shumpert's shooting took a major leap forward. He improved from 30.6 percent from downtown as a rookie (bad) to 40.2 percent during his second season (threatening to opponents). He's looking for his shot more, too, a sign that his increased percentages are related to legitimate improvements rather than advancements in shot selection. And in the playoffs he's hitting 46.2 percent from the arc, which would have led the league during the regular season.
"Soon I started to be able to jump and then I’m not able to run," said Shumpert. "So I’m just shooting jump shot after jump shot all the time; that’s all I could do. When you miss basketball so much you’ll do that all day.
"I guess I’ll have to credit tearing my ACL to being able to knock down those corner 3-pointers."
Despite not being able to run, Rondo got into the habit of shooting jump shots on the TD Garden floor before late-season games. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers have both praised Rondo's work ethic during rehabilitation; while he tends to get better every offseason, it could be good for him to focus his workouts entirely on shooting – though Rondo has improved from outside since entering the league, working with marksmen Mark Price during at least one offseason, he still hasn't reached the point where he can consistently pound opponents for their sagging defenses.
Torn ACLs, of course, don't automatically cause a player to return looking like Stephen Curry. Second-year pro Ricky Rubio shot worse this season after surgery than he did as a rookie. Tony Allen suffered a torn ACL in 2007, but still shoots like a wasp stings him during the middle of every attempt. Shumpert's comments (and performance) provide hope, but other examples stand as warnings that long rehabilitation periods don't necessarily eliminate a player's flaws.
Yet if Rondo wants to work on his game this summer, he will be limited almost solely to hoisting jumpers. Since his shot-making has long lagged behind every other aspect of his game, that's not a bad place to focus. Shumpert's 3-pointers were irritating to Celtics fans this postseason, but if it's Rondo imitating Terry's celebration once fall arrives, I doubt Bostonians will mind. Even if – despite Shumpert's success story – the prospect of Rondo becoming a 3-point threat seems far-fetched.