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 CSNNE.com. 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 CSNNE.com. 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.