BOSTON — Rajon Rondo’s legacy with the Celtics might mean different things to different people, but the Sacramento Kings point guard has nothing but praise for his former team and its fans.
Rondo returned to TD Garden on Sunday for the second time since leaving Boston in Dec. 2014 and the first time in a Kings uniform. When he was introduced during pregame warmups, the Garden crowd welcomed its former All-Star point guard with a pretty hearty ovation.
The crowd, of course, can be fickle, and a small contingent of fans booed Rondo when he touched the ball shortly after tipoff. But the 29-year-old was asked about those cheers in the beginning and in his response revealed where he believes he stands in Celtics’ fans eyes.
“Just classic Boston fans,” Rondo said. “Since Day One since I’ve been here, it’s always been this type of reception. I don’t think they view me as the enemy.”
Rondo was named to four NBA All-Star teams and helped lead the C’s to a title in 2008. His tenure in Boston wasn’t without incident, but the veteran admits he still keeps in touch with plenty of current Celtics players, including one who made quite a big impact in Boston’s last game.
“Yeah, I sent Avery (Bradley) a text, that was a big shot he made the other day. My young guys: Kelly (Olynyk), Jared (Sullinger). A lot of these guys are my rookies, so it was good to see these guys playing well, and I wish them health and happiness.”
Rondo, who tallied another double-double Sunday with 14 points and 15 assists, has been playing some of his best basketball since joining the Kings. It’s fair to say the Celtics still got out at the right time by dealing the sometimes-enigmatic point guard, but it appears he’ll always have a strong connection to Boston.
Let’s hit a few more notes from Celtics-Kings:
— The Celtics earned the win despite playing some of their sloppiest basketball of the season.
Boston committed a season-high 24 turnovers, including seven in the third quarter alone, and allowed 119 points. Sullinger addressed his team’s struggles in that department with an apt quote apparently attributed to his father:
“In the famous words of Satch Sullinger, we had enough turnovers to start a bakery.”
— A win is a win, however, and it marked the Celtics’ ninth victory in 10 games. With the Atlanta Hawks losing to the Orlando Magic on Sunday, Boston now owns sole possession of the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed at 31-22.
Head coach Brad Stevens tempered things a bit after the win, however, adding that “no one’s in (the Celtics locker room) doing cartwheels.”
— The Celtics paid tribute to Chuck Cooper as part of Black History Month by donning the former Boston player’s No. 11 on their gray warmups.
Cooper broke the NBA’s color barrier in 1950 when the Celtics took him with the 14th overall pick in that year’s NBA Draft. Cooper spent three seasons in Boston and was also honored Sunday as the team’s “Hero Among Us.”
— Stevens apparently made a rare mistake this weekend by misreading an email from the NBA.
The Celtics coach said before the game he received word from the league that “piggyback” fouls in which a player attempted to wrap up an opponent intentionally now would result in a “Flagrant 1” foul. As it turns out, the league is just considering the rule change and hasn’t yet implemented it; Stevens simply received an alert because he’s on the NBA’s competition committee.
“It was a misinterpretation on my part,” Stevens admitted after the game.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo (9) reacts to a call during the second half of the Boston Celtics 128-119 win over the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden.