Jackie MacMullan got Rajon Rondo to open up about his recent pain — both physical and emotional. (ESPN)
“It’s a mix and match of things,” he said slowly. “I haven’t been playing well. Aches and pains. And we had the trade with Perk [Kendrick Perkins].
“He’s a guy I spent a lot of time with. I’m not saying that’s why I’m playing bad. You just appreciate somebody more when they’re gone.
“We were best friends. We’re talking more now than we did when he was here. It’s been tough. I know other guys have been through it, but I haven’t.
“We went through everything together, right from the beginning. I missed the USA basketball camp so I could be at his wedding.
“When we were on the road, there was never any question we’d be hanging out together. It was ‘What are we going to do tonight?’ or ‘Let’s go here and there.’ So now it’s a little different.
“I’m not saying I’m no lost puppy. He didn’t die or anything. But he’s a good person.”
Generally, MacMullan paints a sunny picture about Rondo’s injury issues. She’s a Hall of Fame sports writer, and deservedly so, so maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt. But he hasn’t visibly progressed at all. Even last night, when Rondo (finally) made a few shots, he scored only nine points, notched only five assists, and the Celtics played better when Delonte West was in the game. Plus, he was forced to the bench after re-aggravating and losing all feeling in his injured pinkie finger.
Yet MacMullan sounds confident in Rondo’s health, and cheery in her outlook.
Perk isn’t coming back — but Rondo is. His shot is on the mend. The feeling is back in his hand. He’s convinced he is almost on the other side of one of those dark periods that every NBA veteran encounters in his career, when nothing seems to go right.
“I think it’s been good for him,” Rivers said, “to go through those struggles.”
Rondo logged but 28 minutes against New Orleans and his nemesis Chris Paul, who experienced his own share of angst in this game.
Making shots for Rondo was “a relief.” Winning the game was “a step forward.” He admitted to frustration, but never any doubt during this slump.
“No doubt at all,” Rondo said. “I’ve got too many people behind me for that. I don’t know what’s been said. I haven’t read the papers, watched the TV or any of that. I don’t need to hear it.
“No one has to tell me what to do. I’m pretty good at doing that on my own.”
I wish I could take their word for it, but I’d like Rondo to have at least one good game first.