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Wide open spaces

There’s an old saying that states, “A cluttered house is a sign of a cluttered mind.”

It makes sense too. You can be suffocated by the lack of space around you or by all of your possessions. If you’re able to roam freely physically, then you’re probably able to be completely aware of the space around you. Instead of worrying about moving around objects, your mind is left open for better awareness in many aspects of your life.

A perfect sports example of this is the early success of Kurt Warner when he took over the Fastest Show on Turf in St. Louis. Before he was the greatest undrafted player in NFL history, Kurt Warner was tearing up the Arena Football League as a speed-junky type of surgeon, picking apart defenses in a very compact environment.

The Arena Football League’s field is extremely small compared to the NFL dimensions. The AFL field is 85 feet wide and 200 feet long. It’s essentially the size of a hockey rink (thanks, Wikipedia!). To be a great quarterback in such close quarters is pretty impressive because you would assume the defense is everywhere at all time. When Warner finally got his real chance at the NFL, he was now looking at a field that is 160 feet wide and 320 feet long.

It wasn’t so much that Warner had a longer field to work with in throwing the ball; he now had so much room from side-to-side to operate. A wider field meant incredible freedom in how he approached the passing game. You could wait a little longer on crossing routes. Swing passes out of the backfield were now much more fruitful. The defense wasn’t making him so claustrophobic.

Opening the field of play visually for someone with the instincts of Kurt Warner is just like playing off of Rajon Rondo because he’s a bad shooter. The playing off Rondo strategy drives me insane. People (Derrick Rose fans) want to discount Rajon Rondo’s production because he’s playing with Hall of Famers and personally, I think that’s a crock of excrement.

Want to know why Rajon Rondo is putting up impressive assist numbers over the last two seasons? Because teams are giving him an NFL field to work with on the NBA court. Everybody knows Rajon Rondo is a poor outside shooter. Sure, you can point out that it’s improved and he once hit a bunch of 3s in a H-O-R-S-E competition and when the sun isn’t in his eyes he’s actually pretty good as long as the wind isn’t blowing. Let’s face reality though; in an NBA game, Rajon Rondo can’t shoot.

You know who else knows that Rajon isn’t a good shooter? Rajon Rondo. He knows it’s a low percentage shot for him to just take the bait and pull up for a jumper. If he does that to bail the defense out instead of attacking and setting up his teammates than he’s failed as a point guard. If Rondo needed to be a scorer, he could do it. He could take jumpers in games until he was comfortable enough with it. He could drive to the basket with ease and get the ball to the backboard instead of looking for a cutter or spot-up shooter.

Instead, Rondo shows patience out there and instead of trying to show how much of a man he is by shooting the ball, he’s point guarding the hell out of the defense by using the space given to him as a head start.

Normally, playing off of someone helps you protect against the drive. But with athletic aberrations like Rajon, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, you’re giving the quickest players in the world a head start to attack you. By the time they’ve made up the six feet you’re giving them, they’re at full speed and you’re backpedaling awkwardly as a defender.

Not only do you give Rondo a head start by playing so far off of him but you’re also giving him all the passing angles he could ever want. You’re not going to prevent him from driving by playing up on him. He’s very good with the ball and probably quicker than you. But by playing up on Rondo, you’d be making him turn his body to protect the ball and cut down a lot of his vision on the court.

Unfortunately for the Celtics opponents, they’d much rather play lazy conventional basketball wisdom instead of adjusting to the new age of players and abilities. Rondo never has to look out of the corner of his eye to find an open teammate. He gets to stand squared up to the basket, keeping his dribble and patience alive while waiting for the play to develop. Meanwhile, his opponent is too far away to actually affect a pass unless it’s coming right at him.

When you see Chris Paul get a bunch of steals, do you see him picking off passes a couple yards away from his defensive assignment or do you see him pestering his opponent a couple inches away and reading the guy’s eyes? He’s picking off passes right off the passer’s hand instead of trying to guess correctly on playing the passing lane. Why wouldn’t teams attempt this with Rondo?

Instead, Rajon is being allowed to do his Kurt Warner impersonation. He has a gigantic field in front of him to work with, while he out-waits you. His crossing patterns get extended. His swing passes are unmolested. The defense is nowhere to be found bothering him.

The only thing cluttering up Rajon Rondo’s mind right now are his increasingly astounding assists numbers. And it’s all due to the fact he doesn’t have a house cluttered with defensive pressure in front of him.