Rondo finds new locker mate, mentor in Dooling

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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 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.

Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

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Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

Chris Mannix discusses the Boston Celtics chances of sealing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and which low-seed team will give them the most problems in the playoffs.

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Waltham, mass. – Kelly Olynyk is in a good place right now. 

He’s playing a key role on one of the top teams in the NBA, doing more than just stretch the floor with long-range jumpers and 3-pointers. He has been a solid positional defender most of his time in the NBA, but lately he has become one of the team’s best rebounders … really!

But more than anything, Olynyk is in the best shape of his career both mentally and physically, delivering strong play in several categories.

“When he plays aggressive and with confidence, that’s when he’s at his best,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. 

And lately, the best of Olynyk has been in steady rotation for the Celtics who will host the Phoenix Suns tonight. 

Olynyk attributes his recent strong play to seizing his opportunity to help the Celtics in what has been a season-long area of weakness. The fourth-year big man is a threat to score from 3-point range whenever he’s on the floor. Because of that, teams are overly concerned about his long-range shooting which has allowed him to be an effective driver into the paint and finisher around the rim. 

He has also benefited by being healthy, something he could not say was the case on the eve of the Celtics’ postseason run last season which ended in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. Olynyk was hampered by a sore right shoulder injury that limited him in the playoffs against Atlanta, and later required surgery which sidelined him for the start of this season. 

But those pain-filled days where he gave more thought to his shoulder rather than shouldering a greater load for the Celtics, are behind him now. 

“It’s something that I had to deal with and I had to get surgery,” Olynyk said. “Now it feels better than it has. I feel strong, confident, ready to roll.”

Boston has won five of its last six games, and the play of Olynyk off the bench has been among the reasons for the team’s latest run of success. In those six games, Olynyk has averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a team-high 64.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 20.5 minutes per game – all better than his season average in those respective categories. 

And among Celtics players who have averaged double-digit minutes in that span, Olynyk has a team-best rebounding percentage of .170 in addition to an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .689 which is also tops among Boston players during their last six games.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t surprised to see Olynyk playing as well as he has now that he’s injury-free.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than playing with clear minds and fresh legs,” Stevens said. “I just think that, and not being injured is a big part of that.”

For Olynyk, part of the challenge he has had since coming to the NBA was finding that balance between being aggressive and assertive, while making sure he got teammates involved when the opportunity presents itself.

“There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive, forcing things, over-aggressive and create and open things up for others,” Olynyk said. “It’s kind of a balance, kind of like a yin and yang; just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play it. That’s what’s going to make you the best version of yourself and your team the best version they can be.”

Olynyk’s teammates encourage him often (Avery Bradley and Thomas are probably the two most consistent in his ear) to be more assertive, but they recognize he tends to be hesitant far too often for a player with his skillset.

“When he’s second-guessing and … shot-faking when he should have shot, just not being the aggressive player that we need him to be … we don’t need him to be like that,” said Thomas. “We believe in him. He just has to remain confident at all times. When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a hell of a player.”