The Celtics decided it was time to rebuild for the future this offseason, so they traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets.
The team hung onto Rajon Rondo, however, and despite many teams lining up to try to steal the All-Star point guard away, Boston maintained all along that it had no intention of making such a deal.
The Celtics want to see how Rondo returns from the ACL injury that prematurely ended his season, and believe, at least for now, that he’s capable of leading the team into its next era of success.
Pierce is a believer, as well.
“Without question [he can be the man in Boston],” Pierce said. “I’ve already talked to Rajon; Rajon’s mature. People talk about the relationship with Doc [Rivers], and they probably had their best years over the last two years. So I don’t think that was a reason for Doc leaving. I’ve heard that, but that wasn’t a reason for Doc not coming back.
“Rondo is one of the best players in the league. He’s a guy who can be the face of a franchise. He’s won a championship, he’s been an All-Star. There’s a lot of organizations who don’t even have a face of that caliber.
“I definitely think he’s matured and can handle a lot. I talked to him and he’s ready for the challenge. He knows that it’s his team. He knows he has to be a leader, and from being around me and Kevin [Garnett] and seeing how we work.”
Pierce is almost always a straight shooter, and would have deflected the question if he didn’t feel like disparaging his former teammate, or that his words weren’t indicative of exactly how he feels.
That being said, the knock on Rondo to this point has been an icy personality that doesn’t always mesh with teammates or those in the front office. That’ll have to thaw a little in order for Rondo to take on the leadership role in Boston that’s his if he wants it, but it’s certainly nice to get such a solid endorsement from a player with Pierce’s credentials.