Rondo feels mentally stronger after injury
BOSTON — Following Rajon Rondo and Anta sports apparel brand announcing their new partnership Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics guard sat down with a small handful of reporters to discuss a wide range of topics from the latest on his recovery, to the status of his relationship with former Head coach Doc Rivers and former teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Q: How curious are you to see how your game translates to a team with no Big Three around?
RR: "Whatever coach (Brad Stevens) asks of me, that's what I try to do. If he wants me to shoot the ball more, I'll shoot it. But at the end of the day, my natural instincts are to make my teammates better. Regardless of who is out on the floor, I believe I do make everybody out there better. I'm going to push them as hard as I can. I'm going to demand a lot out of them. I wouldn't demand anything that I wouldn't demand of myself. So I'm excited to play with a new group of guys."
Q: When you said you felt nothing when the trade went down ...
RR: "That was blown out of proportion."
Q: So what was the story behind it?
RR: "I don't really say much and speak out on exactly what happened. I talk to Kevin all the time. I talk to P. Obviously it was different when the trade went down. I didn't expect it to happen. I had just gotten off the plane. It happens, and that's the business. I'm not going to say it was, 'forget about it'. We still talk about them in the locker room today, tell stories about how KG was, things Paul did. At the end of the day, I still talk to every one of those guys. I talk to Jet, I talk to P, I talked to Kevin yesterday. We still check on each other. It's a brotherhood. It's something that you can't break. We won titles together. We been through the fire together. It's just something for life."
Q: Rookie Phil Pressey has a lot of voices in his ear. How do you balance being there for him but not overwhelming him with info?
RR: "I give him as much advice as he asks me. He's a good listener; not a lot of young guys come in and always willing and open to listen. He's a very humble guy. That will take him a long way. He has a little chip on his shoulder; he was undrafted. But the way he plays in practice, and the heart he has, you can't measure that. I think he'll be a pro for a long time."
Q: What do you take away from your relationship with Doc Rivers?
RR: "I took a lot away from Doc. I still catch myself laughing at some of the things he's told certain guys, and now me being the core leader of this team, I mimic some of the things Doc has said to guys. I've leaned a lot from Doc. I tried to study his ways as far as a coach because it's something that I may want to do in the future. I have a lot of respect for Doc."
Q: What's the next hurdle for you in your recovery from your torn right ACL injury?
RR: "Just getting my leg as strong as possible; getting my leg as strong as possible and getting my mind as strong as possible, get back out there and believe in my leg and do the things that I was able to do before this injury."
Q: How do you strengthen the mind to bounce back from an injury like this?
RR: "I don't know. I just play the game. When I'm out there participating in the drills I can participate in, I don't think about my leg. Basketball is a game of instincts. You have to go out there and just play the game. You can't second-guess anything you do out there. The way I play; run, jump, change direction so quickly, you don't have time to think about the injury you had. When I get to that point and I'm doing it with contact, I'll play."
Q: It has taken Chicago's Derrick Rose a while to return. Can you understand ...
RR: "I definitely understand; Yes, I understand. He got a lot of heat for why he didn't come back. Everybody who has had an ACL injury understands, it's not something you can just say, 'OK, (Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back) Adrian Peterson came back in six months. Why did he come back in six months or eight months or 10 months?' Everybody's injury is different. Things can happen differently, within the knee. The human body can react differently. You have swelling, you have cartilage, you just ... so many things can happen that may cause a setback. Mentally, everyone's different. I talked to a lot of guys. I talked to Perk (former Celtic and Rondo's BFF, Kendrick Perkins); I talked to T.A. (former Celtic Tony Allen), I talked to (former New England Patriot wide receiver) Wes Welker. I think everyone of them told me they wished they would have waited a little longer. Because you try to come back and you're itching ... I'm itching because I'm so competitive and I haven't competed in a while."
Q: Wasn't your first instinct to be like Adrian Peterson?
RR: No. I want to be like Rajon Rondo (smile). Obviously he came back and had an MVP season. That's the type of season I want to have when I come back. I don't want to come back and just be mediocre or have excuses about why I'm not playing up to par. When I come back, I won't have any excuses. I'll be ready to go. And if I'm not playing up to par, it's just on me. I won't blame it on my knee."
Q: Ray's gone. Doc Rivers, KG and Paul are now gone as well. Some guys would want to leave and start over. Your thoughts?
RR: "I love it here. The fans are great here. And Danny (Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations) has been straightforward with me. This is my team. Why would I want to leave? Why would I want out? I never really backed away from a challenge. This would be a challenge. I'm looking forward to working with coach Stevens. It's a brand new start for us as a team. A lot of new players and a lot of young guys willing to listen, so I'm very excited about that."