Last night, Rajon Rondo took a sharp departure from his usual treatment of the postgame media and spoke to reporters immediately. He didn’t even bother to put on a shirt before he took on the masses that streamed in one by one as the locker room door opened.
Rondo tends to take his time to decompress before facing the cameras. Many times, it’ll take him well over an hour before he exits the trainers’ room ready to talk. Fully showered and dressed, Rondo will mutter thoughtful responses to those of us who are persistent deadline pushers.
Last night, Rondo’s behavior was decidedly different. He stood ready, taking question after question with only one topic of conversation prohibited: Rajon Rondo. Yes, you read that correctly. Rondo began the postgame media portion of the evening speaking for Sasha Pavlovic. He answered everything from how Pavlovic was able to play so well after being out of the rotation to who would win in a game of 1 on 1. When a reporter arrived late to the garden party and asked a question specific to Rondo, he would quickly inform that Rajon Rondo was not ready to talk.
At first, Rondo’s decision to speak for his teammate seemed like nothing more than a hilarious and absurd exercise in levity. Almost unnecessary given how well the Celtics played and how much the Celtics won by. It wasn’t until about halfway through Paul Pierce’s media session that it became apparent that Rondo wasn’t just being a wiseguy. He was being a wise man. “You need me to get that, P?” Rondo said midway through a Pierce response. Minutes later, Pierce exited informing all of us that Rondo would be taking over. Just as he had with Pavlovic, Rondo answered the rest of the media’s questions as if he were Paul Pierce.
Finally, Jessica Camerato of CSNNE asked Rondo the question that everyone else chalked up to a personality quirk. Playing along with Rondo’s act, Camarato asked Rondo, “why do you think Rajon Rondo wants to answer so many questions for his teammates tonight?” The media giggled as Rondo quietly and thoughtfully answered, “he wants his guys to get home and pack.”
The Celtics are about to embark on an eight game road trip that will see them face all four California teams and will culminate in a rematch with the 76ers in Philadelphia. The thought of trying to revenge a 32 point loss at the end of an eight game road trip is a daunting prospect. Rondo knows this. He knows his teammates have been through this before. He knows that his teammates have families that they won’t see for a long time. He knows that if the Celtics hope to make a playoff run, success on the road is imperative.
A leader is many things, but one defining characteristic of a leader is recognizing a moment when your teammates need something and being able to act on that recognition. This is exactly what Rondo did last night. The selfless act of impersonating his teammates allowed his brothers to get out as early as they pleased and stemmed some Rondo-related media criticism for a while.
To those in the media that have read the rumblings and tea leaves and interpreted that Rondo doesn’t get along with his veteran teammates are just off base. I ask those who question the off court chemistry to spend some time in the Celtics locker room after a win or loss. They’ll see a team that really likes each other. A team that likes to sing and rap together. That share stories of what just transpired as if it were in ESPN Instant Classic.
Lots of things have been said about Rajon Rondo. Let me add one more: Rajon Rondo is a great teammate.