One night, when Rajon Rondo was sitting out, the Celtics point guard watched a replay of his team’s game and focused on the television broadcasters.
“I was pretty fascinated by how good Mike [Gorman] and Tommy [Heinsohn] are,” Rondo said Wednesday night after his team’s 99-90 loss to Toronto at TD Garden.
Because Rondo sits out of the second game of a back-to-back to rest his surgically repaired right knee, he knew he’d be free March 31, when the Celtics play in just such a game in Chicago against the Bulls.
So he approached Gorman, Comcast SportsNet’s play-by-play commentator during Celtics games, and asked if he could join him.
“He took it from there,” Rondo said.
And so Rondo will join Gorman during the first quarter, with Cedric Maxwell taking over for the last three quarters.
“I’m practicing. I’m prepping,” Rondo said after tallying 9 points and 15 assists. “I’ll probably go home tonight and get my notes together.”
“I think it’s great,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Should be good insight; he knows he can’t give too much insight. We’ll go over all the rules on Monday in pretty good detail.”
Said Rondo: “Yeah, I’m not going to give up any of his secrets. I’m still working on that. I don’t want to get caught up in the moment. I should be pretty harsh on Chicago and other guys that are on the court with those guys.”
When asked if broadcasting was something he wanted to do after his career, Rondo said he wasn’t sure. And when asked if he wanted to do it to give the public a different side of him, he said the answer was no.
“I just thought it would be something fun to do,” he said. “I’ve [known] Mike and Tommy for every year, ever since I’ve been here, and those guys have always been generous to me. I’ll get a chance to do something different, have a little fun with Mike.”
Stevens praised Rondo’s decision.
‘“He’s a guy that, he understands the big picture of — right now he’s a professional basketball player, but in 10-12 years he won’t be,” Stevens said. “And so what does he do from there?
“These are all great opportunities for him to grow and maybe find something that down the road that he likes to do.
“We’ve talked about coaching, we’ve talked about things. I think it’s great when these guys start thinking like that and want to participate in things like that.”
Will he be tough on guys — and maybe the referees?
“I would think Rondo would probably be,” Stevens said, smiling.
“I don’t know that that would be taken as well for a current player to be so critical. Mike will, I’m sure, direct the conversation appropriately.”
Rondo smiled when asked the same question.
“I’m going to be just like Tommy,” he said.
During a video discussion live-streamed to Celtics’ season-ticket holders earlier this week, team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the subject of Rondo as the leader of the Celtics.
“Rondo has incrementally grown from the time he’s been here in his leadership,” said Ainge. “I still think he has a ways to go to becoming the leader that we want him to be or that I think he will be when he’s in his 30s. But he’s taking that seriously and he’s trying to grow as a leader.”
Ainge also reiterated the fact that he doesn’t like any player — including Rondo — to be referred to as “the face of the franchise.”
“Because that puts a lot of pressure on one person to be something they might not be,” Ainge said. “Rondo has always been a face of the franchise. I think he’s probably the most popular Celtic since Larry Bird . . . maybe [Kevin Garnett] for a short period, but I think Rondo sort of won over that in the last few years as being the best player on our team.
“But I look at every player as a leader. They’re either leading a guy to be a more positive player, [have] a more positive work ethic, or they’re leading in a negative way. Rondo has been one of our leaders. He has been one of our captains, whether he had the C on his jersey or not. Like Paul [Pierce] did, he has been the coach on the floor for us for the last four or five years as we were trying to win championships.
“I think there’s so much put on him. Right now, there’s no Paul, KG, and Ray Allen, so it’s putting more on him because we don’t have the players with the same magnitude and the same perception in the media.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham said Rondo has a “star quality.”
“He brings some intangibles to the table that are sort of hard to describe but people love watching Rondo play,” Gotham said. “They do. I think we’re all [fans] of watching him play. You can get stuck watching him play and you hope the guys on the court aren’t just watching him play; they’re playing along with him because of the amazing things he can do.
“To me, he’s a fascinating guy. He’s obviously a very smart, somewhat complicated person, so it’s hard to sort of put him in any neat box, whether it comes to leadership or even his performance on the floor – he’s sort of an unorthodox player.”
“But he’s such a good link between our championship past, the 2008 team, and Ray and Kevin and Paul, and this young generation. It’s good to have a player who can link that, who’s been there and seen what it’s like to be at the top and can translate that for the other guys that maybe it’s a little harder for them to see because maybe they haven’t experienced that in their careers.
“We like having Rondo there for a lot of reasons, but mostly I just love watching him as a player.”