Rajon Rondo arrived at his introductory press conference in Dallas on Friday night 45 minutes behind schedule, but he said all the right things about joining a championship-caliber team with an enticing style of play and a coach that lets his players operate freely within it.
He was candid, however, about the challenges of playing the past two seasons on a rebuilding Celtics team after spending the majority of his nine-year career on playoff teams led by one of the league’s most respected coaches in Doc Rivers and surrounded by a cast of All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce.
“It was really challenging these past couple years for me in my career,” Rondo said. “Each year you start training camp, all you talk about is winning a championship, but being realistic, the last two years our focus was just making the playoffs.
“For me, being a competitor, I felt like we put five guys out there who played extremely hard, but I didn’t feel like we were going to win many games. That’s just how my mentality’s been since I’ve been in the league. Fortunate enough to play with future Hall of Famers and great teams and coach with Doc Rivers, so to get back to that situation, being able to play with future Hall of Famers, great coach, and a team that’s ready to contend for a title, I’m fired up. I’m ready to go.”
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle knows the value of having a point guard with Finals experience, comparing Rondo with Jason Kidd, who played in two NBA Finals with the Nets before coming to Dallas and winning a title in 2011.
“There are definite similarities, but they’re different players,” Carlisle said. “The similarities are Jason kept developing his game into his late 20s and 30s and he was a guy that was not known as a really good shooter, but developed into a guy that was a consistent 3-point shooter and that was one of the things that defined his Hall of Fame career.
“Rajon is a younger guy — at 28, he’s one of the younger guys on our team now. I see him as a guy who hasn’t reached his ceiling as a player, as good as he’s been. I talked to Brad Stevens about him, I talked to Danny Ainge about him, they say this guy is a relentless worker and a winner and one of the best competitors they’ve been around. We’re just thrilled to have him here.
“One of the other things I think is really interesting about him and Jason Kidd, they’re two of the most resourceful guys you’re going to see in basketball. They just find ways to affect a game and help teams win. So guys like that, you welcome into this situation.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.