Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.
- Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Straight face.
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Smiles all around.
The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.
“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”
Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.
“Very, very young,” he told Hoop China. “They make me feel old. They’re very young. I’m excited to play with them. They have a lot of energy. James Young’s a great shooter, and Marcus Smart is known for his defense, so we’re going to need that energy from the young guys, and I look forward to playing with those guys.”
In addition to Rondo’s salient points about energy and individual skill sets, I counted three times he used “very” in as many sentences, and a roster that young creates an obstacle this season on his road to a stated goal.
“I want to win a championship,” added Rondo, who proclaimed himself “in great shape” to Sina Sports. “I want to win another championship. I want to continue to improve as a player. I have a lot of individual goals, but for the most part in the team aspect I want to get back to being a contender and compete for a championship.”
While Bradley recently declared the Celtics “have a chance to make the playoffs” this season, the consensus outside the locker room is that this is a lottery team once again in the second year of a lengthy rebuilding project.
And, to his credit, Rondo seems to understand that.
“You can’t have a great team every year,” he said. “No one does. If you do, you’re very fortunate, but in the NBA it’s a long season. You can’t win every season. You can’t win every game. It’s just part of it, and you want to continue to try to get better and grow as a player and as a team.”
Throughout last season, Danny Ainge preached this same philosophy, suggesting Rondo has been lucky not to have endured stretches like Paul Pierce did early in his career, and perhaps the current Celtics captain is accepting that fact — a glimmer of hope that he could be willing to re-sign in Boston next summer.