Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks were designated the “road” team in their matchup against the Celtics. That was very appropriate, considering the crowd was decidedly pro-Boston.
And the “home” crowd was in for a bit of a treat. The few hundred people who showed up to see the a bunch of guys in C’s gear that may not make the team were surprised by a visit from Rajon Rondo, who parked himself on the Celtics bench and became part of the coaching staff for the game.
“It was good for Rondo to come in and support the young guys,” said Summer League coach Tyronn Lue. “Guys have been playing hard, playing great, for him to come around and encourage guys, speaking up at halftime and time outs, it’s good for them.”
There were a few instances of Rondo pulling guys over, notably summer stand out Dionte Christmas, to impart some of his knowledge on them.
“I learned in about 5 minutes so much from him,” said Christmas. “I can only imagine what a whole season would do, playing under Rondo.”
The tutelage paid off, with Christmas dishing 6 assists using the tidbits from Rondo. Christmas said he’s still working on a possible deal with the Celtics, but he’s also auditioning for all 30 NBA teams while also fielding offers from overseas teams.
Rondo spent the entire game working with the young Celtics on the bench. He even took over at the end of the game when the Celtics, down one, were trying to draw up one last play.
“Rondo talked me out of the play I wanted to run,” said Lue, with a smile as he joked about Rondo’s propensity for, shall we say, ‘offering his opinion’ during huddles. But Rondo being there had an obvious effect on the young guys.
You may not realize it, but some of these guys were in middle school when Rondo was a rookie. He’s the young guy deferring to Hall of Famers during the regular season, but these kids are a bit starstruck by him. Some of these guys probably would have asked for his autograph a couple of years ago. Now they’re potential teammates trying to pick his brain.
The fact that he takes time to be there for them speaks volumes about his commitment to the team and its development. For a guy who has a tough, hard-to-read facade, this shows a side that some fans might not see. He didn’t have to be there. He chose to be there. He didn’t have to talk to Dionte Christmas. He chose to pull him aside during free throws in the first quarter to teach him something.
Rondo can be a bit divisive in Boston. Some fans may never like him and they can point to very legitimate things to support their arguments. But this is a meaningful thing to the franchise. Explaining to the game to the guys who may be his running mates now helps them get a few steps further than they would have been. It’s an important head start at an important time for the Celtics.