BOSTON — Just over two weeks after the Boston Celtics traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, Rajon Rondo was back at the TD Garden on Friday, as he prepared with his Dallas teammates to face off with the Celtics this evening.
For the first time since the trade, Rondo spoke with the local media about his abrupt departure from Boston and his new home in Dallas. Here are a few highlights from the exchange.
Weird to be in Boston as a visitor?
“It will be a different experience, but I left here on great terms. I think pretty much everyone on the staff and my teammates still love me. It will be an exciting night tonight.”
Talk to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett about their returns to Garden?
“I spoke to Paul [Pierce] the other day when we played the Wizards. He told me to keep blinking and look up so I don’t cry. I haven’t talked to Kevin [Garnett] about it, but obviously they went through it and tonight will be my turn to go through it.”
Any message you have for Boston fans?
“I’ve said it a couple times the past week. I was very grateful to play for a sports organization like the Boston Celtics. It starts with Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck believing in me from day one. The way the fans have embraced me from day one is a very humbling experience. I’m glad I got to experience this in my life.”
Has the change of scenery in Dallas energized you?
“It’s a different beast in the West. It’s a lot more fast, up tempo pace. Coaches want me to attack a lot more, push the ball and look for my shot.”
Were you surprised by the trade?
“I was surprised. I was actually asleep around five o’clock and I woke up and saw Danny Ainge pop up on my cell phone and I was like [oh s***]. That’s when it happened and he told me to come out to the [practice] facility.”
Coming back to Boston as a champion feel particularly special?
“I believe so. A lot of my new teammates have been through the situation. Everyone is different. Every city and organization is different. I don’t think I can compare it to any of my teammates. I’m an NBA champion and a lot of them are, but still playing for the Celtics is completely different from playing with Golden State or Houston. These are probably the best sports fans in the world.”
Tough to say goodbye to Celtics teammates?
“It happens so often in this league. It starts in training camp when you have to say goodbye to the guys that get cut. You are attached to them for a few weeks and they get cut. I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve been friends with Jeff, Brandon and Avery for five years now. We still keep in touch. No one has died. We still have the same phone numbers and we keep in touch.”
Nice to have some closure after years of trade rumors?
“I mean it didn’t make a difference. I’ve gone through it for about seven or eight years. I came into the league traded. I’m not the only one who goes through trade rumors each year. Obviously dealing with Boston sports and the media is a lot bigger than a lot of other cities but it’s part of it. I think I handled it pretty well but I didn’t let it affect me as far as my game and play.”
Fortunate to be sent to a team like Dallas?
“It’s a great situation. Danny and Wyc could have sent me anywhere, but I think it shows the type of class they have to spend me to an organization [like Dallas]. I’ve done a lot for this organization and they didn’t just throw me on the backburner to any team. They put me in a situation where I could still excel and win a championship. I’m grateful for that situation as well.”
How do you want the 2008 championship group to be remembered?
“For what we did. We won a championship. We brought a championship back to Boston. I think it was 21 years. And it was a special group of guys. I can’t wait for 20 years from now when they call us back, and we can come back and be embraced again by the fans.”