Rondo finds new locker mate, mentor in Dooling


Rondo finds new locker mate, mentor in Dooling

For years, Rajon Rondo sat in the same spot in the Boston Celtics locker room. Once Ray Allen joined the team in 2007, he became the young point guards locker mate. On the other side, players rotated in and out.

This season Rondo has a new locker. The move to the other side of the Celtics locker room would not be so noticeable if not for his new neighbor -- veteran point guard Keyon Dooling.

For the first time in his career, Rondo is spending the entire season sitting next to his experienced back up. Hes hearing advice, gaining knowhow . . . and soaking it all up.

I think its big because hes a veteran point guard, Rondo told He has a lot of great information for me. I can learn a lot from him.

Locker-room assignments are made by a Celtics staff member. Even though Rondo didnt arrange the move himself, he welcomes the change of scenery. (It also happens to be the former locker of his best friend, Kendrick Perkins.)

Ive always been next to a big or Ray, Rondo explained. Ive learned so much from Ray already and Im still learning from each guy, but now its a different face, its a guy thats been in the league 10, 11 years, another veteran. He sees things from a different perspective. Its good to get that different feel or different opinion from someone else.

Just as Rondo, 25, is eager to learn, Dooling, 31, is just as excited to share his wisdom. Dooling joined the Celtics last month in the midst of trade rumors swirling around Rondo. He didnt judge his new teammate at first, but it didnt take long before he came to a conclusion.

Ray (his nickname for Rondo) is awesome. Im enjoying my time with him, Dooling told I heard about his reputation before I got here, of course, and I never judge a book by its cover, I never judge people off their reputation. All I can judge off is the time that we spend together and hes been amazing to me so far. Im enjoying it.

While Dooling waited to get to know Rondo as a person, he already had formed a strong opinion of him as an athlete. Dooling, in fact, has told his young son he wants him to play like Rondo (he did note with a smile that he wants him to shoot more).

Im a fan of him. I really like his game, said Dooling. I really like the way he plays, the toughness, the approach that he takes in a day when most of the point guards are like hybrid point guards, like Derrick Rose, guys that are scoring over 20 points, Russell Westbrook. Hes like an old-school throwback point guard who really plays just as aggressive as those guys but not necessarily aggressive to score.

Over the years, vets like Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury and Carlos Arroyo have joined the Celtics at later points in the season. Only two weeks into the schedule, Rondo is already enjoying the benefits of having a veteran backup point guard on his team since training camp.

Rondo led the Celtics last season with 37.2 minutes per game and 36.6 the year before. This season he tops the C's with 36.5 minutes per game. While he is only in his 20s, it still helps to have a reliable player behind him, especially when playing a condensed schedule.

Its different, its a first for me, said Rondo. Its more reassuring, I think, as far as when I come out the games, Im not worried about, I have to get back in there and do something for my team. I can rest, get a lot more down time, rest my body, and a lot less worries.

As significant as giving him a break on the court, Dooling also looks forward to making an impact on Rondo away from basketball.

I want to encourage him, I want to help him as well, said Dooling. Though hes 20-times the player that I will ever be, its lessons that you can learn in your approach, on your daily approach, the way I approach the game, the way I handle my teammates. Little things like that off the court can translate to better results on the court.

Its already resonating.

He teaches about beyond basketball, said Rondo, Stuff off the court, family issues, growing and being a businessman. Theres a lot of different venues and different outlets hes trying to teach me, which is also a good thing for me.

This season Dooling plans to wear Rondos sneakers from his overflowing collection of Nike brand kicks. With so many shoes, Rondo is happy to share.

We wear the same size shoes, Rondo smirked. Right now I have kind of an unlimited amount of shoes so I have to get rid of some. I told him if anybody ever needs some shoes, they can have as many as they want when Im not playing with them.

The two have already taken the first steps -- literally -- to developing a solid relationship.

Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage


Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
5. Al Horford's leadership established
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.