Paul Pierce sees what Danny Ainge sees and what most Celtics fans see in Rajon Rondo when the Boston point guard is on his game.
“He’s unstoppable,” Pierce said of Rondo. “I always said the more he’s improved, the more he’s expanded his game, he’s one of the best. If he’s coming down and knocking down threes, it’s almost impossible to keep him out of the paint at times, he has the floater, the way he finds people in traffic. If he continues to consistently knock down that [3-point] shot, watch out.”
Rondo drilled his first three 3-point attempts Friday night and, except for a hiccup at the end of the third quarter, Rondo and the Celtics didn’t look back in a 91-84 win over Pierce’s Nets Friday night at TD Garden.
Rondo nearly had a triple double, with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Pierce even gave Rondo an assist of his own, helping Rondo to his feet late in the first half after Rondo took a spill to the floor. He gave the Celtics point guard a pat on the rear and got an ovation from the crowd.
“In the end, me and Rondo share a special bond,” Pierce said. “We’ll always be friends, we’ll always have something in common with our championship, our kids still hang out together.”
Then Pierce went a little further, offering that their kids share that same bond and “hung out for his birthday, actually.” Pierce laughed out loud very hard for several seconds.
Of course, Pierce was very aware of the much ballyhooed Rondo birthday party in Los Angeles last month, when he skipped out on a trip to Sacramento after being asked to travel with the team and not stay behind. Ask Pierce and he’ll tell you all things considered, he’d want Rondo as his captain any day.
“Rondo, I respect him and what he’s doing moving forward with this franchise and it will always be that way,” Pierce added.
If anyone can understand what Rondo is going through right now it’s Pierce. Pierce made the Eastern Conference finals in 2002 and were in the playoffs the next two seasons before the team went through a massive rebuild, bottoming out in 2006-07 with a 24-win season.
“I try to forget those days,” Pierce said, laughing again. “Those were trying days. But you grow from there. I think it made me a better player, physically, mentally, it made me stronger. You can only learn from this process. You find out what type of players you have when you go through moments like this.
“They are a young team, they got a mix of some veterans, some young guys they are developing and they are only going to get better,” said Pierce. “Rondo is leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.”
There was one bit of advice Pierce had for Rondo when asked how the sometimes temperamental point guard could best handle his situation.
“Just being patient,” said Pierce. “When you’re in the middle of your prime like Rondo is and you’re frustrated with the losing, it’s about staying patient, staying with the guys, helping them develop. At times, it’s going to be frustrating, and you have to understand that and the position you’re in.
“At times, things don’t always go your way and you want everything to be better right away. But you understand it’s a process. Danny Ainge understands it’s a process. And they have to be on the same page. Your lead player, your franchise player, your organization, you have to be in communication with what they want from each other and you go from there. You build with each other.”
While talking about his former teammate, Pierce even offered that a return to Boston isn’t out of the question. But for now, he’ll let Rondo handle the leadership role in Boston.
“I think Rondo really understands it,” Pierce said. “He understands probably more than I did at the time. When I first got here, we were in rebuild mode, we made the playoffs, then we went back into rebuild mode. Same with him. He came in, we were rebuilding, we went through a phase of winning, now he’s back in rebuild mode. But he’s still young enough to see it out to where he’s still going to be in his prime. I know the Celtics are going to do whatever it takes. They’ve got great owners, great management, to get back to that top level again.”