BOSTON — Questions abound as to whether Rajon Rondo is capable of leading the Celtics into their next era of greatness, and the team’s 32-68 record the last two seasons with him as captain has not helped his case.
A former teammate and future resident of the hall of fame has no doubts about Rondo’s worthiness, however.
“He has a chance to show these guys what it takes to win, the habits you’ve got to have,” said Paul Pierce who returned to TD Garden on Sunday as a member of the Washington Wizards. “He’s grown up before our eyes. He’s become the leader here and it’s good for him to experience — the one true all-star, the veteran, the one the guys look up to for guidance and he’s accepted that role.
“It’s tough. It’s a demanding role, especially in this situation when you’re losing, but he’s up to the task. It’s frustrating, definitely, he definitely. He gets frustrated. Rondo’s been a part of a lot of winning teams but he’s headstrong that he’ll fight through it.”
Rondo — who posted a triple-double in the Celtics’ 101-93 win — succeeded Pierce as team captain, and the jury is out on whether Rondo is Pierce’s match as a leader. Pierce fit the bill as a captain who both led vocally and by example, according to the point guard.
“He’s a great talker,” Rondo said. “When he does it he’s very positive on the court. He’s demanding. He’s going to yell at you, he might get on you, but it’s all for the betterment of yourself and the team.”
Just because Pierce thrived in that role doesn’t mean it was easy for him. He went through a few seasons like this one for the Celtics, feeling the draft lottery was a lot closer than a championship.
His patience paid off with two fellow All-Star teammates in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and a title in 2008. If Rondo can make it through the tough times, Pierce observed, the payoff could be worth it.
“I had to embrace that role also,” Pierce said. “It was frustrating at those times as you remember, so you learn a lot in these situations.”
It’s much easier to say that now that the struggles are in the past, of course. For Pierce, rebuilding years are in the past. For Rondo, it’s in his present, and who knows how much more of it is in his future.
Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images