The Boston Celtics are in the middle of a rebuild, and that’s not something Rajon Rondo is used to facing in this, his eighth season in the NBA. Since returning from a knee injury that kept him out for nearly a year, Rondo has had to adjust to, not just playing again at the NBA level, but to a team slogging through a roster renovation spearheaded by GM Danny Ainge. That means his teammates always have one eye on the door, wondering what’s next for them in Boston.
With so many expiring contracts, Rondo tells the Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn, “For the most part, guys are playing for contracts.” Instead of fighting the ambiguity surrounding the future of the franchise, Rondo is trying to use it as more of a dangling carrot to keep the team together rather than the fractious distraction it can sometimes morph into.
Via the Boston Globe:
“For the most part, guys are playing for contracts,” Rondo said. “It’s not a matter of being here. It’s a matter of staying in the league.”
That pressure can weigh on a player.
“If a guy is not under contract, obviously he wants to play well every game,” Rondo said. “He wants to make all his shots, do all the intangibles.
“I’m not necessarily saying that a guy under contract won’t do all those things, but obviously it’s amplified when you’re playing for your life or you’re playing for your career.”
Rondo isn’t used to so much turmoil. He joined a Celtics team fresh out of Kentucky in 2006, and after his rookie year, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined the squad before going on to claim a title. Since then, Rondo was the kid brother to the elder KG and Pierce. But they’re gone now, striving to bring a title to Brooklyn.
This year, even coming back from a torn ACL, Rondo is the player younger guys look up to, and he tells Holmes, “I think they know that I want the best for them overall.”
The best way for Rondo to incentivize guys whose contracts are set to expire this summer involves using that anxiety about the future as a motivation tactic, rather than a diversion from the team concept.
Teammate Gerald Wallace, one of the only Celtics with a guaranteed deal for next year, told Washburn “[Rondo’s] done a great job,” as a leader for a team that’s still in a state of flux.
Rondo’s leadership style is more lead by example, rather than screaming his head off at guys, which can crush a younger player’s confidence, and lead to a disengaged veteran.
“I think so, because he competes,” Wallace said about Rondo’s leadership abilities. “Anybody can talk, but actions speak louder than words, and guys that go out and do as much as they talk are easy to follow.”
Teammate Avery Bradley, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, agreed with Wallace’s assessment of Rondo’s leadership style in a tough time for the team.
“You don’t want to strip anybody’s confidence,” Bradley said. “You don’t want to seem like you’re yelling at people all the time. So all you can really do is lead by example, and I think he does a great job of that.
“Somebody you know that’s going to go out and play hard for you every single night â€” all you can do is respect that,” added Bradley.
Rondo summed it up thusly:
“Everything I tell guys or any advice I give is for the betterment of them and the team. I don’t benefit from it â€” well, maybe from getting an assist â€” but I want them to be in the right rotation defensively. I want us to all be on the same page. And then when we win, we all win.
“When we win, everybody gets paid.”
That’s as good an incentive as there is at the professional level, and it seems Rondo has learned from former teammates Pierce and Garnett. Boston’s a series of moves on Danny Ainge’s chessboard, with Rondo as the Queen and the King â€” still on the market as a possible trade piece this summer. To keep the team playing hard every night and on the same page, is all you can ask for, and â€” for the most part â€” that’s what Rondo’s done.
Will the Celtics make a splash in free agency this summer?
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