But, all the talk on Thursday morning was about Danny Ainge actively shopping point guard Rajon Rondo.
Celtics rookie center Greg Stiemsma dropped by the 98.5 The Sports Hub studio to hang out with Toucher & Rich, and put to rest the talk that Rondo is a headache, at least on the court.
“He’s been nothing but great to me and the other young guys. He’s a blast to play with,” Stiemsma said of Rondo. “I’ve never played with a better point guard and better distributor. He wants to win and he wants to pass the ball, and that’s what the point guard should do.”
“He’s definitely a vocal leader; he’s the one out there calling plays, making sure the defense is where we’re supposed to be,” he continued. “He’s so talented that almost at times, it almost seems too easy for him. The game comes so easy to him; I’ve never played with someone who is that talented and that intelligent on the game at the same time. With his ability to see guys, but then his ability to get them to guys on top of that.”
While Rondo has developed into a leader, there is no question who has the loudest voice when it comes to leading the team.
“I don’t think anyone can be a bigger leader in the locker room than KG,” Stiemsma said of 16-year-veteran Kevin Garnett. “With his persona, with his high basketball IQ, his intelligence. Just the KG persona.”
Garnett called a players meeting prior to their loss to Oklahoma City before the All-Star break to make sure everyone knew what was at stake for the then-struggling Celtics.
“It’s nothing to hide, nothing private. It was, ‘we just have to be better.’ We have to play better, we have to grind it out, and we have to come to play every single night,” Stiemsma said of the meeting. “We have to win the games we’re supposed to and we have to battle in the games that are tough. We’re not going to win out, but whenever we step on the floor, every night we expect to win.”
Garnett is an emotional player, both on and off the court, and is sometimes very hard on some of the young players. But he has never made Stiemsma cry, like he did with Glen Davis two years ago, and has instead made sure the rookie knows what he needs to be doing when he gets his minutes off the bench.
“Just the other day, I think it was the game in Cleveland. During one of the timeouts he grabs me and says ‘listen, focus on setting screens.’ I think I went out the next possession and I got Ray or got someone open. I look over to him and he’s smiling,” said Stiemsma. “He legitimately cares about the young guys on the team. All he wants to do is win. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, what it takes, he just wants to win.”
Now at 17-17, the Celtics will try to build on their back-to-back wins with three more home games before hitting the road for an epic nine-game trip. The C’s will have to make amends for early struggles, but Stiemsma feels they are starting to find their groove in the crazy, strike-shortened season.
“Nobody wants to lose, and these guys don’t have a lot of experience losing, either. We’re trying to find the right track, trying to find our groove, and I think we’re starting to get it. We know it’s going to be a grind the rest of the year with a short season, but with all those other excuses out there, we can’t let them get to us. We have to play our style of basketball and win games.”