The Boston Celtics are Rajon Rondo’s team now.
The veteran leaders Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are long gone, which was already going to make this a strange season for Rondo — they have gone from a team that thought about titles to rebuilding. Add in the fact Rondo is coming back off an ACL injury and it gets tougher.
Garnett and Pierce were speaking to ESPN Boston’s Jackie MacMullan and they had a word of advice for Rondo — don’t rush your return back from injury. And understand the losing is temporary if you keep growing.
“Right now, he’s injured, and I told him this is probably going to be the toughest year of your whole career, mentally and physically,” Pierce said. “Physically, you’re dealing with an injury. Mentally, you know nothing but winning since you came into the league… You may be put in a situation where you may not win a lot of games. You have to be a leader now; you know me and Kev are not there anymore.
“You have to go through these times. I’ve been through them. I explained to him how I went through it. I feel like, I’m one of the best players in the league and now… [Rondo is] going to be in that situation for maybe one year or two years, who knows? But you have to be mentally prepared for it, and that’s some of the things we talked about.”
Pierce might simply have been speculating, but he had noted earlier Thursday that Rondo is “probably not going to be back until probably December, January, who knows?”
There has been talk about Rondo being ready for opening night. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But he’s just entering his prime at 27 and shouldn’t try to push through too much to make it just get back on the court. Don’t risk your career to play injured, it will still be there in a month or three.
Leadership will be developing good habits for a team that is not winning, building a foundation to be there when the talent starts to fill in on the roster. Rondo can do that, but it’s a new role where he is the leader.