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Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: ‘If [Rajon] Rondo had a do-over, he would’ve gotten on the plane’ to Sacramento

02.28.14 at 11:16 am ET

ESPN/ABC basketball analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to discuss Rajon Rondo and other Celtics news. To hear the interview, head to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Last weekend Rondo made the decision not to travel with the Celtics to the team’€™s game in Sacramento — a game he was not scheduled to play — reportedly so that he could celebrate his birthday with family and friends in Los Angeles.

“I think if Rondo had a do-over, he would’ve gotten on the plane, because your best player has to set the example,” Van Gundy said.

“I can understand wanting to have a birthday celebration in L.A. versus in Sacramento, but when you’€™re the best player, you’€™re charged with setting an example that everyone should follow, and one of those things is sacrificing what you want to do for what you should do, and I don’€™t think there’s one argument that could be made that a guy who’s traveling with the team should miss a game to blow out birthday candles.”

Despite Rondo’s decision, Van Gundy says the four-time All Star has the ideal “Boston fan mentality.”

“A guy’s greatest strength is often his greatest weakness,” Van Gundy said. “What I love about Rondo is his surly, competitive, nasty streak. I love that about him. Now, does that go the other way at times where he may go over the line? Maybe. But it’s hard to find guys in today’s NBA — everybody knows what to say now. Everybody is so polished media-wise.

“To me, Rondo, and every player, has times where he would like to handle situation X a little bit differently, but for the most part, I think his attitude is absolutely the type that you need to win.”

Over the last month, Rondo has been the subject of some trade rumors.

“Can Rondo be a centerpiece of a championship team going forward? Absolutely,” Van Gundy said. “I think the only question that any management person should ask themselves is, ‘Are we better with him or better going in a different direction?’

“These are the decisions that only the guys who are around people every day know. Those are tough calls for Danny Ainge, but he’s made some good decisions in the past, and I’m sure he’ll make some good ones going forward as well.”

For more Celtics news, visit the team page at

On Brad Stevens‘ assimilation to the NBA: “What he undertook was very difficult in that he had never been an assistant in the NBA. He was taking over a very proud franchise with the best history in the NBA and he was taking over for a very good and popular coach.

“You take all that — boy, that’€™s a tough job. He has handled it all so perfectly. He’€™s made the transition seem seamless when it’s anything but. My thing, I was saying to a couple of coaching friends of mine, is that Brad Stevens‘ worst attitude at Butler in his whole career would be the best attitude in the NBA.”

On the NBA draft lottery system: “What you have to do is eliminate any incentive to lose. If you didn’t have the NBA lottery system, the teams would still be going through a rebuilding phase, but they would be giving fans the best product available instead of so many teams today try to give their fans a substandard team in the hopes that it then leads to a better team down the road. … Quite frankly, some of the teams that are out on the floor this year are not worth the ticket prices you ask people to pay to see what’s supposed to be the best basketball in the world. At times it’s just utterly unwatchable.”

On Jason Collins: “I think everybody is going to say the right thing. Behind the scenes will they all say the right things. When they’re with their boys and with each other? I don’€™t know. I think the Nets are a little bit older, probably a little more mature. And with the [Kevin Garnett], [Paul Pierce] type having had a previous relationship with Collins at the Celtics, I think that’€™ll go smoothly.

“League wide, there’€™s always going to be some knuckleheads who either say things or tweet things or say things behind Collins’ back in the locker room, but you can’t worry about that. Change is never as easy, never as smooth, and you don’t have to worry about whether every single person is ready for that change. You plow ahead with what is right and everybody else has to fall into line.”

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jason Colllins, Rajon Rondo,
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