WALTHAM, Mass. — Whenever Rajon Rondo has tugged a basketball jersey over his head in the last decade, he’s had the fortune to know it meant something.
From Lexington, Ky., to Boston, Rondo has played for two of the most storied organizations in the game. Two years at the University of Kentucky — which was actually one more than he wanted to play there — and now eight years with the Boston Celtics have helped limit the amount of truly meaningless games he’s had to play, according to Rondo.
“Playing at the University of Kentucky, there’s pressure every game,” Rondo said Tuesday before practice. “It’s almost similar to playing for the Boston Celtics. It’s pretty much a way of life down there in Lexington. It’s the only thing going on in the state for the most part. It’s just Kentucky basketball, and that’s it. Pretty much every game is a big game. Every game, they want to win.”
Rondo’s Wildcats survived a 78-76 classic against Wichita State last weekend to advance to the Sweet 16, where they will face rival Louisville on Friday. Despite being a Louisville native, Rondo said he never considered playing for the Cardinals out of Oak Hill. His friends and family had no trouble coming to see him play, with UK just an hour east.
Boston fans should beware letting Rondo’s affection for the tradition at Kentucky and with the Celtics make them complacent, however. Rondo can become a free agent after next season, and while he clearly respects the accomplishments of both programs, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll fight to stay put in Boston.
As a sophomore at Kentucky, after all, nothing would keep him around another year — no matter how many big, meaningful games he got to play in.
“I was pretty much out of school next week” after his last game as a sophomore, Rondo said. “I was outta there. I was gone.”