As he was introduced to a roaring ovation from the TD Garden crowd Friday, Rajon Rondo was officially named the 15th captain in Celtics history. Paul Pierce held that title from 2003-13.
“I’m just definitely honored, following Paul Pierce who was our last captain, and he held the seat for a long time,” Rondo said after playing his first game in nearly a year, having been sidelined by knee surgery.
“And so, it’s definitely something I’m very proud of. I think I’ve earned it, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s not just me as a leader; it’s honestly a lot of guys who lead this team.”
In the Celtics’ 107-104 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rondo finished with 8 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds in his first game since Jan. 25, 2013, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he was glad to see Rondo again, a player Bryant had battled against in two NBA Finals, 2008 and 2010.
“We all know the excitement that he brings,” Bryant said before the game. “Some of the numbers that he puts up are staggering numbers. It’s good to have him back on the floor.”
Bryant understands the process Rondo is going through. Bryant, who is out with a knee injury, rehabbed a torn Achilles’ tendon and missed the first month-plus of the season.
“Rhythm is always the biggest adjustment, just getting your game legs back,” Bryant said. “It’s one thing to train and to run and to do what you have to do, but when you step on that basketball court, to play at game speed is a little different.”
Rondo said he didn’t know until Monday that he was going to play against the Lakers. Monday was the day he released his cryptic tweet of “29,233,380 seconds,” the length of time between his Feb. 13, 2013 surgery and Friday’s tip-off.
New to rivalry
Friday marked Brad Stevens’s first game as part of the storied Celtics-Lakers rivalry.
“As a kid, that’s my introduction to the NBA,” said the rookie NBA coach. “It seemed like every Sunday the Celtics and Lakers were on. I know they weren’t on that often, but it certainly felt that way.
“Obviously, growing up in the state of Indiana, and the Celtics having that Indiana tie [Larry Bird], an amazing, amazing history between the two teams and obviously that’s continued well beyond the ’80s. That’s one of my early memories of NBA basketball.”
Did he dislike the Lakers at that point?
“No, I loved both,” he said. “Here’s what I liked: It was hard-nosed, tough, together basketball. In that time of your life, you’re kinda looking and finding your passions. Nothing fed the passion like watching those teams play and I’ve spoken about growing up in the state of Indiana and just basketball in general what it means. That just added the fuel, it was really fun to watch.”
Anthony brings energy
Joel Anthony, who joined the Celtics in a three-team trade after playing for the Heat, was in uniform Friday but did not play.
Anthony, a 6-foot-9-inch forward/center, is in his seventh season, all with Miami before the trade. But he wasn’t playing much this season — just 37 minutes in 12 games. He last played in a game Jan. 7.
“I think this will be a good opportunity for me to come in and have a chance to contribute and help this team just try to get better,” Anthony said before the game.
“That’s the biggest thing: Trying to get better as a group and as a unit, and hopefully I can help out in that process.”
Anthony said he wasn’t sure what his role would be, but he said that he looks to contribute more on the defensive end.
“Defensively, with my energy and shot-blocking, also my experience,” Anthony said. “I’ve been in a lot of big games, seen a lot of different situations, and I feel my experience will be able to help out this ball club.
“Just looking to do those things that I do with a high motor and plenty of energy, 110 percent, and just take it from there.”
Bryant dropped in on an international marketing class at Boston College Thursday night, surprising many students.
“I had just begun the class with an example of the how the NBA is a model of successful international marketing and how Kobe Bryant is its biggest star, when suddenly the door opened and in walked Kobe,” professor NickNugent said in a statement Friday. “It was surreal.”
Bryant said he didn’t plan on attending; it just worked out with the timing after the Lakers arrived in Boston earlier that day.
He also said he enjoyed it.
“It’s interesting, because obviously I’ve been doing a lot of international marketing the past 15 years,” Bryant said. “So to actually sit in a classroom and hear the terminology, the proper terminology, from the things that I’ve been doing, it’s pretty cool.”
Johnson on board
The Celtics announced the signing of forward Chris Johnson to a 10-day contract. Johnson was playing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA’s Development League.
Johnson averaged 19.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20 games with Rockets’ D-League affiliate. He was in uniform for the Celtics Friday but didn’t play.
“I’m fortunate, blessed to be here,” Johnson said before the game. “I’m just going to make the most of this situation. When my number is called, just be ready and provide energy, do all the little things to show that I belong here.”
Johnson said he wasn’t sure what his future with the Celtics would be beyond his current contract. He played in eight games for Memphis last season on a pair of 10-day contracts.