WALTHAM -- The common opinion around the NBA is, players don't enjoy playing against Kevin Garnett but love being his teammate.
Rajon Rondo only knew Garnett as an opponent during his rookie season. Over the past five years, they have developed a close relationship as teammates, mentormentee, and big brotherlittle brother.
"I would probably say Kevin is my closest friend on the team," Rondo said Friday on Boston Celtics Media Day.
In spite of a ten-year age difference, the big man and point guard have clicked. They share the same intense passion to win, as well as other interests off the court. More importantly, Garnett has been in Rondo's corner since the first day they met in the summer of 2007.
"Kevin always wants to see me do well," said Rondo. "From day one, I think my second year, when he first came in he told me he would be disappointed if I wasn't the MVP of the league one day, if I wasn't considered the best point guard one day. He's always pushed me and expected more out of me than a lot of people did. He's always showed me how to become a better person each day. Whenever I mess up, Kevin's always the one to tell me, 'You should do this, you should conduct yourself this way or handle it that way.' So he's kind of like a big brother-slash-mentor and he's always wanted the best for me. We kind of gravitated toward each other. Obviously off the court we have a lot of things in common. We share the same interest in a lot of things and like I said, he's been like a big brother to me."
Rondo is entering his seventh year in the NBA and looks up to Garnett's career, which began in 1995 when Rondo was only nine. Now 26, Rondo is incorporating some of Garnett's proven methods to maintain and extend his playing years.
"The way he goes about the game and approaches the game, he's a future Hall of Famer and I consider him one of the greatest players to ever play the game that's been in front of me," said Rondo. "So he's inspired me to work hard, come in every day and put up extra shots, take care of my body, get the proper rest, get massages, get treatment, get stretching, I guess have longevity. He's played 17 or 18 years and only two or three players can say they've done it in this era. There's a way to take care of your body. It's not easy. I'm feeling it six years in, so 17, 18 years I can only imagine what his body feels like. He's very disciplined and he takes care of his business."
Last season Garnett scoffed when critics called him "old" and questioned how many years he had left in the league. He signed a three-year deal with the Celtics this summer, just months after turning 36. Rondo laughs at the skepticism of his teammate and mentor and big brother.
"I don't take Kevin for granted and our team doesn't as well," he said. "So we value him very much and he'll be a big part when we try to win a championship this year."