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With fresh-faced coach Brad Stevens getting hired by the Celtics this summer, some of the chatter about the team had to do with the new coach’s relationship with Rajon Rondo, the team’s lone remaining star player.
Rondo’s career, though brilliant, has been marked by episodes of stubbornness, most notably a report of Rondo throwing a bottle through a video screen during a team meeting. With that kind of history, it wasn’t unfair to wonder if the point guard would trust and believe in the new coach, the 36-year-old who has no NBA experience.
However, Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande joined Toucher & Rich on Tuesday morning, and he said the fact that Doc Rivers is now gone could very well be what Rondo’s wanted or needed for some time.
“As a lifelong holder of minority opinion, I will add this one to the mix: I think people are vastly underrating Rondo’s interest in playing for a different coach. For his entire NBA career, there has always been at some level a clash between two headstrong individuals in Rondo and Doc Rivers,” Grande told Toucher & Rich. “As great a coach as Doc Rivers is, and his track record is his track record, maybe Rondo needed a different voice. Maybe there is a potential for two young guys who view things differently than most of the rest of the world does to have a really good coach-point guard relationship.
“What’s exciting about the season is all the directions it could go. But to me, everyone is not realizing when the weight of a relationship that was strained at times goes out the window and you’re starting from scratch with somebody new.”
The other story line about Rondo, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, is whether his presence will make the Celtics too good for a lottery pick but not good enough to win a championship. Grande said that Danny Ainge will certainly make a trade if it will make the team better, but there’s no reason the team would tank on purpose.
“If Rondo is playing and this roster, as constituted, is healthy enough, in the East, which has a very Oreo cookie creamy soft middle, this team with a healthy Rondo could compete for it,” Grande said. “I’m not a believer in the tanking theory, because there’s no better city to look back at the history than Boston to show that that doesn’t work. You’re getting a 10 percent chance of getting a guy that might have a 10 percent chance of being a franchise player.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy for a franchise. This team could win more games than people think, and that’s not a bad thing.”
As for the season as a whole and the big picture? Grande said things are better than some may believe.
“I think it’s going to be a fascinating year. When all is said and done and we’re into it, I think people are going to realize that everybody — all of us who are connected to the team or have been fans forever — had six years that were conjured out of the blue. Six years ago, you could not have imagined,” Grande said. “The bottom line is this team is positioned so much better than the one Danny Ainge took over in 2003, and we know what he did starting from scratch. There is interest in what is happening, there is a lot more hope about the future, and to me, because it’s my job to focus on the present, I think this team is going to be a lot more interesting to watch than other people do.”