Rajon Rondo isn’t shedding any tears over Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett
|09.30.13 at 8:52 pm ET|
Addressing the Boston press for the first time since the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this summer, the rehabbing Rajon Rondo didn’t seem all that bothered by their absence at Media Day.
“It wasn’t difficult at all,” said Rondo. “I didn’t feel anything. I actually landed in L.A. the night of the draft, and I got about 45 text messages coming through my phone. I thought I was traded. You never know.”
Instead, the Celtics had dealt Pierce and Garnett, the face and the soul of the franchise that drafted him. So, Rondo traded texts with his longtime teammates, even talked to them on the phone, but beyond that?
Rondo has developed quite a poker face during his interactions with the media, so it’s no surprise he didn’t show any emotion when talking about two players he called brothers for the past six seasons. However, the anticipation in Rondo’s voice over the possibility of putting his own stamp on these new C’s was palpable.
“This is a fresh start for us, a new coach and an entire new team,” he said. “I’m excited about the fresh start. I’m excited every year for each team, but for me to get back on the court I just want to compete. I haven’t competed in a while, and I’m a very competitive player and a very competitive person, so I miss being out their on the court with my teammates and helping them win.”
And what about Doc Rivers, the coach who molded Rondo into a four-time NBA All-Star point guard?
‘What about Doc?” said Rondo, again devoid of emotion. “I give Doc a lot of credit. Doc was a great coach to play for. He was very hard on me. He helped me become the player I am today. I give him a lot of credit, and now he’s gone to L.A., so that’s that.’
It appears Rondo’s family Christmas card list just got three names shorter, now replaced by a few new faces.
“Me and Brad [Stevens] have become best friends,” said Rondo. “We talk every day, we laugh and joke. We just had dinner the other night. I’m going to help him; he’s going to help me. He has my full support. I told him from Day 1, when he came to my camp, that I’m behind him 100 percent. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wants to change, I have an open mind. I’m ready to listen and to be accountable for what he has for me to do.”
Rondo’s doing his part off the court, inviting all Celtics owners, coaches and players to his house for a team-bonding dinner. Wyc Grousbeck showed, along with the entire coaching staff and the few players in town.
“We got to know one another, we shared some old stories, we shared some things guys were looking forward to doing,” said Rondo. “It was just overall a great dinner, and everyone loved the menu I picked out. We had a little bit of everything on the menu, and I think Jared [Sullinger] ate the most.”
Like Sullinger, who admitted his back wasn’t close to 100 percent (and who Danny Ainge said needed better conditioning), Rondo offered no timeline for his return from ACL surgery, other than to say, “I’m feeling strong.”
But when will he be able to play? ‘The 2013-2014 season. Probably some time in the winter. Maybe the fall. You just never know.’ So, not close, then? ‘I’m able to bike. The bike has become my friend.’ Just like Stevens. But what about basketball? ‘I’m doing basketball things now. To what degree? Still no contact, but I’m able to get on the court, work on my shot, work on my free throws, work on ball-handling.’
And watch film. ‘I got to see other guys develop their game, guys like Jeff Green. I studied his game, I studied Avery [Bradley]‘s game when I was down in Pensacola watching the Celtics play. Some things I need to adjust for when I come back to play with these guys. I know Jeff loves to get the ball off the rebound and go himself. When Jeff gets the ball this year, I’m just going to run the floor. He can bring it up himself. I think he’s at his best when he’s doing that at his position. Not a lot of guys can keep up with him athletically.’
And, again, when exactly can we expect Rondo and Green on the court together?
“When I’m mentally ready, I’ll play,” Rondo said. “Until you go through this type of injury — a lot of people gave Derrick Rose a lot of heat about not playing or whatever the case may be — this injury isn’t easy. At the same time, it’s more mental when you come back, and when you get around 10-11 months, it’s just feeling confident.
“You want to feel confident, especially the type of players at the point guard position that we are. Our legs are pretty much everything. We use our speed. He’s very athletic; I’m athletic. And you need that mental aspect to go up and jump and come down without thinking about your leg again, because the last jump, for myself and him, we’ve come down and torn our ACL. It’s Just being mentally ready, and when I get there, I’ll play.”
Rondo hasn’t spoken directly to Rose, but he has consulted with Wes Welker, among others.
“I did a lot of research when I had my surgery and picked a lot of guys’ brains about the timing,” said Rondo, “but each guy is different, every surgery is different, and that’s how I handle it.”
Sooner or later, he will be back, returning to normal, which means plenty more straight-faced interviews and probably a few trade rumors along the way. “Those are things that are out of my control,” he said. “I don’t tend to worry about those things. I have to live my life. Whatever the case may be, whenever that may happen, that’s what will happen. But until then, I’m a Celtic, and I’ll play as hard as I can for this organization.”
After all, without Pierce and Garnett, Rondo knows now more than ever, “This is my team.”