Rondo playing mentor to C's point guards

Rondo playing mentor to C's point guards
October 10, 2013, 12:00 am
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Dressed in Celtics gear yet unable to play, Rajon Rondo roamed around the team huddle until he landed next to Phil Pressey at a timeout of the first preseason game. He spoke intently to the newcomer, eighth-year veteran to rookie, point guard to point guard.

Pressey received in-game knowledge without playing a single minute that night.

The Celtics have three true point guards on their training camp roster: Rondo, a four-time All-Star recovering from an ACL injury,  Pressey and Kammron Taylor, a pair that have never played in a regular season NBA game. While Rondo's experience and place in the league could not be more different from his counterparts, they are on the same team sharing the same goals.

"He’s welcomed me with open arms," said Taylor. "I think him being a veteran in the league, a point guard – the most important position on the floor – he just wants to make sure all the point guards, myself, Pressey, know the offense since we’re new in the NBA."

The Celtics are now Rondo's team. The last remaining member of the 2008 championship squad, he is no longer a youngster looking up to his elder teammates. Instead, he is a go-to veteran on a recently overhauled roster, especially for point guards.

Pressey, 22, grew up watching Rondo. He was familiar with the organization through his father's tenure as an assistant coach for the Celtics, but the relationship was different once Pressey signed with the team. That voice that he had heard from a distance was now speaking directly to him.

"[The first time he offered me advice] was pretty cool," said Pressey. "He teaches me how to control the game, what I should be doing on the offensive end, how to run the plays. Every little thing I do, he’s in my  ear trying to tell me the right thing to do."

At 29, Taylor is older than Rondo in years yet younger in NBA experience. Rondo's vocal guidance is helping Taylor, who had been playing in Europe, get acclimated in the league. Taylor knew he wouldn't be able to learn from Rondo in preseason games because of his injury, and his close attention is proving just as valuable.

"Coming in, I just wanted to pick his brain a little bit and see how he’s become one of the top point guards in the league," said Taylor. "If I’m not calling out the plays, [he is] making sure me being the point guard knowing where the other four players should be on the floor. He’s pointing it out to me during practice, yelling at me while I’m practicing or if I’m on the sidelines. It’s not in a negative way; it’s just critiquing and doing what a leader should do."

Both point guards welcome the positives and negatives with open arms. Feedback is part of the learning process, a process that can be accelerated when receiving guidance from one of the best at his position.

Last season Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, and 5.6 rebounds a game before injuring his ACL. He led the league in assists per game the previous two seasons and ranked top in steals in 2010.

"I think with him, he’s more hands-on with me and Phil because we’re new to the league," said Taylor. "I see him talking to Jordan [Crawford]] and especially Avery (Bradley) because Avery played a lot of the point guard last year when he was hurt. He’s just trying to help guys get better every day, especially at that position."

Pressey has been impressed by the way Rondo advises every member of the team, regardless of their role on the court or experience.

"He’s a superstar but he treats everybody like they’re a rookie," said Pressey. "When I say rookie I don’t mean like they’re younger, but he’s trying to make sure everybody knows what they’re doing from me all the way up to Kris Humphries."

Rondo took on leadership duties early on before camp officially began. He invited the entire team, including the coaching staff, to his home for a dinner that earned kudos from many on Media Day. He also brought several of his teammates to see his friend, rapper J. Cole, in concert and has taken them to eat in smaller groups as well.

"He took us out to dinner and I thought that was real cool because that was two weeks ago and he doesn’t really know us like that, but dinner’s a good place to get to know people," said Taylor.

Just two weeks into camp, Pressey and Taylor are getting to know quickly facets of Rondo that are reserved for those on his team. Both described him as "welcoming" and Pressey enjoys the humorous side to his personality.

It remains to be seen when Rondo will be able to return to the court. Until then, he is finding his own ways to dish assists to his new teammates.

"He’s a superstar point guard," said Pressey. "I couldn’t ask for anybody else to mentor me."