BOSTON (CBS) — Rajon Rondo is a very unique athlete, one who generates just as much buzz for what he says and does off the court as for what he does on it.
While most fans, and especially his teammates, love Rondo’s magnificent passes to just the right spot, he’s a lightning rod for controversy with the things he says and does. While he may be a triple-double threat every time he laces up, and has no issue playing hurt or with stitches across his face, Rondo is short with the media and doesn’t really give a damn what other people think or say about him. And he’s certainly not afraid to let people know that.
The perception of Rondo — which has always been a bit unfair during his eight years in Boston, though mostly brought on by the point guard himself — hit new lows last month on a West Coast trip, when he skipped out on the team’s trip to Sacramento to remain in Los Angeles for his birthday party. It was a situation that the Celtics dealt with internally, and have said it was blown out of proportion by the media — like most “controversies” are when it comes to Rondo.
Just ask Danny Ainge, Rondo’s boss and the guy who traded a first-round pick for his rights in 2006. A firecracker of a player himself, Ainge loves Rondo’s game and his attitude. While he admits Rondo’s approach with the media may need some polishing, Ainge says that is all part of the package deal.
Plus, Ainge thinks Rondo is just having a little fun — at the expense of everyone.
“I love the kid, and I don’t know if he’s misunderstood,” Ainge told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton in an interview that will air Sunday night on Sports Final. “He brings a lot of controversy on his own by some of his actions and how he handles the media. I think he can do better at that, but half of it is he’s messing with us.”
“[He’s messing] with us all; he’s messing with you and he’s messing with me,” Ainge said with a smirk. “Quite honestly, I enjoy it. I enjoy him and his personality.”
“He’s a great competitor and he’s a stubborn guy, and very independent as well,” continued Ainge. “I enjoy Rajon and everything about him, even the things he needs to get better at and some of his faults. I still really enjoy him.”
The great debate with Rondo is now whether or not he is Boston’s franchise player of the future. Ainge doesn’t like to attach such a title to just one player, because he knows it takes a full team to win a championship in the NBA.
“Rondo is a great player, everybody knows that in Boston. He’s had some very special games is a big reason we won a championship in 2008. He’s the link from that last group to our future group. He’s a terrific talent and becoming a better leader all the time; he’s not there yet as a player or a leader but he’s getting better,” Ainge said. “I remember when Paul Pierce was in this age range, I don’t think many envisioned Paul being such a leader and great player in his early 30s.
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“Rondo has a lot of growing up to do, but I hate the phrase that is used so much ‘the face of a team,’ or ‘building around,’” the C’s president said. “Just like Kevin Garnett was on a lottery team before we got him, Ray Allen was on a lottery team before we got him, and Pierce was on a lottery team [before we put them all together]. All three of them needed each other, and Rondo needs players to be with him.
“We’re not building around anybody – we need a group of players to build around. A 12-man team that fits all the parts,” said Ainge. “The fact that Rondo is our best player leads you to believe we’ll build around him, but we hope we can give Rondo enough support that he can win again.”
Ainge also shares his thoughts on how quick the Celtics can rebuild into a title contender Sunday night on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final at 11:35pm!