With the NBA in lockout mode, top players in the league, such as Deron Williams, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, have talked about playing in Turkey or China.
Rajon Rondo, the All-Star point guard for the Boston Celtics, however, may have a longer road back to the hard court. He is recouping from a serious elbow injury that was heard around New England.
“Pop! It was loud,” he said a couple of weeks ago during a photo shoot in Boston. “I was in shock, more than anything. It wasn’t a lot of pain, it was shock.”
The elbow was dislocated in a scary collision with Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat during the second round of last year’s playoffs (the series was eventually won by the Heat). The injury limited Rondo’s versatility and, for games four and five, he played essentially one-handed.
"People said they thought I was better in football than in basketball, but who knows?"
Since then, Rondo has been resting, although he said recently he was about to return to training. “I don’t have to watch what I eat, really,” he said. “I’m so young. I can bounce back and get into shape so quickly.”
Rondo has hardly been idle. In early August, he joined Mayor Thomas Menino at Malcolm X Park in Boston to dedicate three courts funded by Red Bull’s Boston’s Got Wings program, which raised $76,500 by donating $500 for each of Rondo’s 153 steals last year.
He’s also planning to return to the University of Kentucky to pick up his degree in social work, and recently hosted the finals of Red Bull King of the Rock, a one-on-one basketball tournament featuring 64 of the top streetballers in the world at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco.
“You have to be there to experience it,” he said of the event. “But a little detail: it’s cold. Obviously it gets dark out there, and the fog is going, but it’s fun. There’s a lot of hot chocolate going around.”
At 6-foot-1 with the ability to palm the basketball, Rondo is one of the most unique players in the league. He has tremendous rebounding ability, which enabled him to average nearly a triple-double in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky without a basketball idol, Rondo followed football. “People said they thought I was better in football than in basketball, but who knows?” he said. “I’ll never know.”
The Road to Boston
After two years at the University of Kentucky, Rondo was drafted in 2006 with the 21st pick in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, who then traded him to the Celtics. He took over the starting point guard position in his second year, but it wasn’t until the team’s championship run in the playoffs that his true athleticism and ability to take over a game became apparent.
“Mentally, you’ve got to be tougher,” he said about playing in the postseason. “There’s a little bit of adrenaline, but you’ve got to take care of your body. It’s time to step up.”
Although the Celtics were knocked out in the second round in 2011 against the Heat, Rondo says he enjoyed playing the revamped New York Knicks.
“There were some intense games, and it could have gone a different way if our guys didn’t make shots for us,” he says. “It was a fun series, though, being that the Knicks hadn’t made the playoffs in so long -- and the Celtics going against the Knicks is a good rivalry.”
Madison Square Garden however, does not harbor the noisiest fans according to Rondo, an honor that he says goes to the Golden State Warriors. “They got a pretty loud crowd,” he pointed out.
The most obnoxious crowd? “I’d say Chicago. Ever since a couple years back in the playoffs, me and Kirk [Hinrich] got into it and they’ve been booing me and heckling me ever since.”
As for Rondo’s home court, the TD Banknorth Garden? “It’s very intense, even on Sunday games,” he said. “Sunday afternoon, it’s still alive in the Garden.”
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