How Rajon Rondo Uses the Behind-the-Back Pass so Effectively

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How Rajon Rondo Uses the Behind-the-Back Pass so Effectively
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

A favorite play of the Boston Celtics is the side pick-and-pop with Rajon Rondo and either Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass or Paul Pierce.

When running it with Garnett especially, Rondo will often draw both defenders with him toward the baseline and sneak a behind-the-back pass to Garnett for an open mid-range jumper. 

Rondo has assisted Garnett on five pick-and-pop jumpers so far this season, per the video tracking service mySynergySports, and three of those assists have come via the behind-the-back pass.

He can do it with his right hand, like both here and in the video above, or with his left hand, like in the video below. 

Other players in the league will use the behind-the-back pass occasionally when they get stuck or if they see an open pass and think it’s the only way they can get the ball where it needs to go, but Rondo does it with an express purpose.

It’s part of his arsenal as a way to set up two different kinds of fakes to exploit easy baskets. 

Again running a side pick-and-pop with Garnett, Rondo gets to the elbow and pulls back on his dribble just a little bit, baiting Ekpe Udoh into coming forward to contest either the behind-the-back pass or pull-up jumper.

It works as a hesitation dribble, set up by the fact that defenses know that he’ll often look for that behind-the-back pass to Garnett on the pop.  

The second fake is more pronounced, and is even more devastatingly effective.

 

In the video above, Rondo runs yet another side pick-and-pop with Garnett. Garnett’s defender, Joakim Noah, initially leaves Garnett open for the jumper in favor of guarding against Rondo’s driving lane.

This would actually be a perfect time for him to use the behind-the-back pass to KG, who is a strong mid-range shooter (45.2 percent this season, per NBA.com).

What Rondo does instead is pull the ball all the way behind his back to get Noah to jump out on Garnett and vacate the area near the rim, which gets Rondo a wide open layup. Noah has no doubt seen Rondo make that pass to Garnett countless times, and Rondo used that against him to fake him out of his boots. 

This isn’t exactly a new thing, either.

A simple YouTube search yields plenty of results from the past few years of Rondo using this exact fake to make defenders look silly. It’s gotten to the point now where he has used both the behind-the-back pass and the behind-the-back fake so often that they are each used to set up the other.

The defense can never truly know which is coming, and it’s that dual threat that makes the Rondo-Garnett pick-and-pop so much more dangerous. 

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