When Gabe Pruitt left the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2009, he took with him a championship ring, two years of NBA experience, and a friendship with a budding point guard that has lasted nearly four years since then.
Pruitt is now a member of the Celtics NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. The former 32nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft has his own personal tie to the Celtics – a close relationship with former teammate Rajon Rondo.
Rondo’s friendship with Kendrick Perkins has been widely publicized, but there was a third member of their tandem. Pruitt says the 2008 championship team “did everything as a team,” and the following season the younger players formed their own group off the court. They talked, went to dinner, and offered advice to one another as they grew on a veteran squad.
“We were pretty close,” Pruitt told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. “We were the same age, same class, we did do a lot of stuff together. It was myself, Rondo and Perkins always together.”
During this time, Pruitt learned he had a tie that went beyond being teammates. The Los Angeles native was related to Texas-born Perkins.
“I remember one day Perk came to me and his grandfather had told him, ‘That Pruitt kid on your team is your cousin,'" Pruitt recounted. "I didn’t get in too deep, but I thought it was funny we were both there.”
Pruitt, 26, keeps in regular contact with Rondo. They see each other when Rondo visits the west coast and spoke shortly after Rondo’s season-ending ACL tear. Prior to his injury, the two had discussed plans to work out together this summer in Los Angeles, where Rondo organized team workouts last offseason.
As he looks to get back in the NBA, Pruitt is still picking up areas of Rondo’s game and bringing them to the court. Rondo also helps by simply being available when Pruitt wants to talk.
“I just feel like watching him, his passion for the game, his fire his fight, I try to take things that he does, the little intangibles that change the game,” said Pruitt. “I haven’t been with the Celtics for a couple years now, and still when I hit him up, he always responds and gets back to me. He’s a great guy.”
Since being waived by the Celtics, Pruitt has played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Utah Flash, Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League, as well as Ironi Ashkelon in Israel. He has appeared in one game for the Red Claws since being traded last week, and is averaging 10.7 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game in total this season.
Pruitt has adjusted his game over the years, now focused more on defense than running up the scoreboard. He still remembers the lessons imparted on him by his veteran teammates and coach. Pruitt calls winning a championship his rookie year "amazing" and the memories of unwavering discipline are still vivid.
“If I get a call back to the NBA, I won’t be a guy who’s going to come in and score 50 points a game,” he said. “I feel like my main strength is defense, and that’s something (Celtics head coach) Doc (Rivers) used to always preach to me. If I focus on that, I feel it can be the jumpstart back to the NBA.”
He continued, “When I look back, being there with KG, I learned how they took their jobs so seriously. Basketball was their first priority and all the hard work they did before and after practice, how to prepare for different games and different situations, that’s what I picked up from those guys. … I was fortunate to come in my first year and get a ring, and also go through the playoffs and play three rounds that went to seven games. Being able to sit there and watch how competitive it was and how focused the superstars were, how accurate they were in crunch time, that amazed me when I saw that.”
Pruitt doesn’t inquire about potential call ups. He has played in the NBA before and believes he can get back with focus and implementing the skills he took from his time with the Celtics.
“I haven’t heard anything or asked either,” he said. “I’ve been pretty much focused on navigating through this year and doing what I can to open up eyes. I just focus on myself, hopefully it will work out for the best.”
If he has any questions along the way, he knows who to call.