Pierce: 'Mature' Rondo can lead Celtics

Pierce: 'Mature' Rondo can lead Celtics
August 18, 2013, 11:15 pm
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With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the rearview, the Celtics are in a full-on rebuilding stage going into next season.

Just one player remains from the 2007 championship team - Rajon Rondo. Depending on who you ask, Rondo is either overrated or underrated, cocky or confident, a punk or a quiet leader.

But no matter what you think, the kid can play. He's one of the best passers in the game, averaging over 11 assists per game in each of the least three seasons for Boston, and everybody in the organization - at least publicly - has stood by the point guard.

Pierce, who spoke with the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn, thinks that Rondo is much more mature than people give him credit for. He's confident that Rondo can take the reigns and be the leader of the Celtics going forward.

“Without question [he can be the man in Boston],” Pierce said to the Globe. “I’ve already talked to Rajon; Rajon’s mature. People talk about the relationship with Doc [Rivers], and they probably had their best years over the last two years. So I don’t think that was a reason for Doc leaving. I’ve heard that, but that wasn’t a reason for Doc not coming back.

“Rondo is one of the best players in the league. He’s a guy who can be the face of a franchise. He’s won a championship, he’s been an All-Star. There’s a lot of organizations who don’t even have a face of that caliber.

“I definitely think he’s matured and can handle a lot. I talked to him and he’s ready for the challenge. He knows that it’s his team. He knows he has to be a leader, and from being around me and Kevin [Garnett] and seeing how we work.”

Pierce could just as easily spoken negatively about his former teammate, but the fact he's praising him even after his departure should prove a little easier that Rondo wasn't as bad with his teammates and coaches as he was portrayed to be.

Many wonder if he'll clash with new head coach Brad Stevens, but the two have met on numerous occasions, and Stevens has nothing but good things to say.

Of course, it's harder to lead from the sidelines. Rondo is recovering from a torn ACL injury, and while the optimistic outlook is that he'll be ready for Opening Night, it's certainly not set in stone - and somewhat unlikely when you consider the general recovery time for an injury like that is closer to a year.

The Bulls' Derrick Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season after tearing his ACL in the 2011-12 postseason - and that was with a Bulls team that was a title contender.

The Celtics will be extra careful with Rondo's return. As they look to rebuild - and hope for a low pick in the NBA Draft - there's really no good reason to rush Rondo back. It doesn't make much sense for Rondo, either. This isn't a contract year for him, and it's more important that he's completely healthy for the 2014-15 season, and doesn't re-injure anything this upcoming season, putting his contract year in jeopardy.

Even so, Rondo can still learn a lot about the game from the sidelines. With the right attitude - one that Pierce thinks he has - Rondo can turn a negative into a positive and grow even more as a player and person off the court.

And most importantly, be ready mentally and physically for a pretty big task in leading the Celtics - whenever that may be.