[Editor's note: the quote in this piece are all from an interview Rajon Rondo gave for Dime Magazine. You should read the whole interview.]
He’s the type of person who probably believes he could climb Mt. Everest while carrying a grand piano, so when Rajon Rondo is asked who would win a one-on-one tournament among all NBA point guards, his answer is expected:
“Me,” Rondo tells Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton.
Asked who he would beat in the finals of the hypothetical one-on-one tournament, Rondo remains in character.
“Whoever gets there.”
The University of Kentucky product has considered himself the NBA’s best point guard since long before he was in the conversation. He is the type to look around his locker room, see three guaranteed Hall of Famers and a possible Hall of Fame coach, and believe his own voice should be the most trusted. He is cocky and brash, willing to toot his own horn, and competitive enough to play one-armed against the Miami Heat. Losing to the Los Angeles Lakers was the worst moment of his basketball life and the Heat loss hurt, too. Rondo carries the disappointments of the last three seasons with him, motivation to be ready when the next opportunity comes.
Those losses only poured more cement on Rondo’s goal, a championship. “It won’t be no different this season,” Rondo tells Dime.
But some things will be different. The lockout has already caused the postponement of training camps. A handful of preseason games have already been canceled. Regular season games could be next. In a worst-case scenario, the season could be flushed down the drain entirely. If the season survives, even if it is a shortened one, Rondo believes the Celtics will benefit from the NBA lockout — it will leave less-experienced teams with less time to get familiar with each other.
“With our camaraderie and chemistry, I’m not worried about our timing and anything like that,” he explains. But you get the feeling he always expects his team to win, that he would highlight the positive effects of the NBA lockout regardless of the negative ones.
“We’ve played with each other for five years; that’s absolutely to our advantage,” he adds. But he forgets to mention that those five years mean his team is growing old, that increased back-to-backs (and even back-to-back-to-backs) caused by a lengthy lockout could leave the Celtics hobbling to the finish line like they have for the past two regular seasons, that the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are by now also very familiar with each other. Or maybe Rondo does not forget to mention that. Maybe his competitive nature blurs his vision of Boston’s immortality.
One of the league’s most selfless players on the court, known to occasionally forego wide open layups so his teammates can shoot jump shots, Rondo likes boxing, oddly enough, “because it’s just you and the other guy.” If I were psychoanalyzing, I would wonder if he wishes he could emerge from the shadows of his Big Three. I would wonder if comments like Mike D’Antoni’s — “I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does” — bother Rondo more than he lets on. For now, he plays like a man committed to being the pass-first point guard the Celtics need him to be. But the time will come when Rondo will lead this Celtics team into the future, when his accomplishments — even if they do now, which they shouldn’t — will not hold any asterisks at all.
“You’ve gotta be ready,” he says, and though he is describing what he learned from the playoff loss to Miami, he might as well be discussing his soon-to-change role. “I have a veteran team,” he says, but he might as well call his team old. He might as well admit the Celtics will soon be his.
Basketball won’t ever become boxing, just Rondo and the other guy. But it will become more like boxing when Rondo looks around the locker room and sees fewer Hall of Famers, when more pressure than ever rests in Rondo’s Texas-sized hands.
“I’m training as if we’re having a season, so I’m not worried about getting out of shape,” Rondo tells Dime. “The longer (the lockout) goes I might not be in the same condition I’d be if we were having games, but I’ll be in good enough shape to make it through.”
The Rajon Rondo era will come, one day. But next season will (hopefully) come first.