Rondo ready for leadership role earned from Celtics

771680.jpg

Rondo ready for leadership role earned from Celtics

WALTHAM It hasn't even been a year since rumors surfaced of the Celtics trying to kick Rajon Rondo out the door for Chris Paul.

But on Friday, there was no more trade talk. No backtracking. No unhappiness on either side with any particular situation not even a hint.

Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and even Rondo sat up at the podium and instead answered questions about Rondo's transformation into a leader on this veteran Celtics team.

My, what one season can do.

Rondo has been a prolific NBA player for a few years now. We've seen him take over games big games against big time players. There's no more doubting his ability as he's one of the best point guards in the game. But there has been doubt about his maturity and leadership skills. Now, those too look to be behind him.

"Rajon is really becoming a leader," Ainge said. "I'm not sure a few years ago we could have said that. He's obviously a great player, but he right before our eyes has grown as a person and as a leader. I think the hardest thing to do is to convince guys like Doc Rivers, and Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce that you're a leader. And that's something that you can't just give to somebody that's something that has to be earned. And I think that he is earning that respect from them as a leader of the team."

It's a lot easier to be a veteran and lead a team of young players. But flip the script, and we've got a situation. Of course, it took Rondo a few years to earn the respect that Ainge is talking about, but when you hear Rondo say that he and Garnett are best friends on the team (he said it Friday), well, that's all you need to know about where his maturity level has risen to.

"Well he is a leader," Rivers said. "I think it's happened over - it's a process. Three year ago he was learning how to be a leader, two years ago he got better, last year he got a lot better, and now he's here. But I just think it takes time, especially for him. Young, going to a veteran team, that's hard."

Rivers was put in a similar situation as a player when he entered the league: he was a rookie point guard on a veteran Hawks squad. Rivers knows that it's hard to earn that respect at first, but he sees that Rondo has gotten it.

"It just takes time," Rivers said. "What it really takes is actions. You have to prove it with your actions before anybody will listen to your voice, and I think over the last couple of years Rondo has proven that."

Rondo showed enough through his actions to earn a sit-down with the most important members of the team. At that point, the official changing of the guards (passing of the torch, etc.) took place.

"Well honestly I think it started last year," Rondo said. "The Big Three, Doc, and myself, we had a meeting to start the season and they all told me this is my team now and we go as you go. So for them to embrace and I wouldn't say let go but kind of let me lead the way speaks volumes of their characters. It's not easy accepting a young guy with my type of demeanor or attitude to come in and kind of take charge.

"It's a work in progress, I think I've gained or earned their respect. They see how hard I work here in the gym, they see how I play the game, they see how unselfish I am I think over time, and they accept the role of me stepping up and becoming a leader."

Rondo knows that while he is more of a leader now, that nowhere near makes him more accomplished or better than veterans like Paul Pierce or Garnett. He admits that it's hard to be too cocky around those guys after all, they have some impressive hardware that he doesn't have . . . yet.

That doesn't mean he isn't confident in his abilities though. He has to show he belongs on the court with them.

"Well I'm biased," Rondo said when asked if he thought he was the best point guard in the NBA. "There's a lot of great point guards in the NBA. I made the comment earlier in the summer, I made it two years ago. That's how I approach the game. I don't think I'd be the player that I am today if I didn't believe it. You don't want to be cocky, but at the same time you want to be confident, especially with this type of team, this type of role. It can kind of be overwhelming to play with three future Hall of Famers and me being such a young point guard if I didn't have the confidence to play with those guys or the confidence to take charge at times, I don't think I would've became the type of player I am today."

If it's Rondo's time to lead, great, but it's where he leads them to that matters.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."