Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Rajon Rondo visits Indiana and basks in the Celtics’ quest for a championship

By Vaseline May27,2024
Rajon Rondo visits Indiana and basks in the Celtics’ quest for a championship

It’s been almost a decade since Rondo, now 38, dazzled fans with his passing ability and that behind-the-back fake that turned into a silky floater off the glass. He is retired and coaches his son Rajon Jr., a 12-year-old prospect, and decided to reserve a suite to watch Game 3. He openly cheered for the Celtics as they rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 114-111 victory. Saturday against the Indiana Pacers.

Rondo had particular admiration for Jrue Holiday, who not only put the Celtics ahead for good with an and-1 with 38.9 seconds left, but then sealed the game with an Andrew Nembhard bully with 3.3 seconds left .

“What he just did on the last possession against both guards (Nembhard and TJ McConnell) and Nembhard was a great play and (Holiday) had to stop one-on-one and not even give us (Celtics fans) a heart attack and not allow ​​that (Nembhard) fires a shot,” Rondo told the Globe. “Shout out to Jrue, one of my favorite teammates I have ever played with.”

Rondo was teammates with Holiday on the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017-18, a team that reached the Western Conference semifinals before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.

“He’s a great veteran, a great teammate, a great human being, a great husband, a great father,” Rondo said. “One of my favorites. I’m glad they made plays like this.”

Rondo visited the Celtics during training camp and helped with practices and practices. He took a liking to this team, which has the best chance of winning a championship since the 2008 club.

“It’s a tight-knit team,” Rondo said. “I feel like they remind us of our 2008 team too. It wasn’t just one or two guys. Every night there would be a different scorer, there would be a different man making that elusive play. Coach (Joe) Mazzulla puts them in the right position every night. It wasn’t pretty, obviously you (a team) playing without the All-Star, you might have a bit of a slow start, but down 12 at the half they made a run. It won’t be easy, but they overcame the adversity and won a game.”

The game was a contrast of styles. The Celtics only won by 3 points, despite making 11 more three-pointers than the Pacers. Indiana attacked the paint and midrange, shooting 59 percent on two-pointers and scoring 68 points in the paint. That plan worked for about 42 minutes. Then suddenly the Pacers couldn’t score because of the Celtics’ ball pressure.

“The game is all about adapting and adjusting,” Rondo said. “(The Celtics) set the tone, set the standard for playing basketball, and obviously they’re in the conference finals. The haters can say whatever they want to say. Clearly this game plan has worked so far, and I don’t think anyone will stop them.

The opportunity to watch the Celtics and coach his son, using a high-level playoff game as a teaching model, was too good to pass up for Rondo, who “1,000 percent” eventually wants to coach in the NBA.

“It’s a two-hour drive and I wanted to show my son what greatness looks like up close,” he said. “On the way to 2-0, but still ending up in a difficult environment and dealing with setbacks. They’re the game-winning plays. We were both talking about how Jrue got that defensive stop. That’s what separates Jrue Holiday from a lot of different players he plays against every night.”

Rondo, it should be noted, has an active case in Indiana related to a Jan. 28 arrest for, among other things, unlawful possession of a firearm. Indiana State Police cited him for the misdemeanor charge because he obtained a restraining order against him from Rondo Jr.’s mother in August 2023. The trial has been postponed until August 1, with Rondo’s legal team claiming the gun ban is a violation of his Second Amendment rights.

The Celtics organization has made a concerted effort to bring alumni back to games and practices, seeking their guidance and advice. That invitation to training camp had a big impact on Rondo, and he appreciated the opportunity to connect with the team that acquired him on draft night in 2006.

“It made me a man,” he said of Boston. “I came in at 20 and left at 28 or 29. Boston raised me. It will always be close to my heart and it is the place where my first two children were born. Of course it is always a special moment to support this organization. From day one they treated me like a star, and they continue to treat me with such kindness and grace, so I will continue to root for the C’s forever.

Boston traded Rondo to the Mavericks in December 2014, ending his nearly nine-year career with the team. He also played with the Kings, Bulls, Pelicans, Lakers, Hawks, Clippers, again the Lakers and the Cavaliers. Rondo helped the Lakers win the 2020 NBA Finals in the bubble; he and his son were part of that viral photo celebrating on the floor, while 8-year-old Rajon Jr. sipped from what looked like a champagne bottle.

That kid, a 6-foot-1 guard, is turning into a big-time college prospect.

“I wasn’t as good as him when I was 12. That’s what you want as a father,” Rondo said. ‘I didn’t tell him that. He has a lot of work to do, but overall he’s a great kid, and I just want him to be happy, play and have fun. He plays multiple sports, so there is no pressure to make it to the NBA and he wants to go his own way. But he is a sponge and he wants to learn and get better.”

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]. follow him @GwashburnGlobe.

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