A week ago, speaking at Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning's charity basketball game, Rajon Rondo had this to say regarding the Eastern Conference this upcoming season:
"As far as the East," Rondo said, "we're the champs."
Speaking recently with Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports at a Team USA practice, Rondo expanded on that line.
"They should be good, but they ain't done nothing yet," Rondo said after a recent practice during Team USA's minicamp. "They ain't done nothing."
"What is there to be nervous for?" he said. "I'm worried about L.A. That's the team we need to beat. Miami looks really good on paper, and I'm sure they're going to be really good. But they still have to come together as a team. I'm not saying they won't, but who knows if those guys can jell?
"Our biggest opponent each night is ourselves - that's how I look at it. Not to be cocky or anything, but that's how we honestly feel. We are the defending [Eastern] champs. Once the first game of the regular season starts, that's irrelevant. But we are going to go into training camp looking to get back to the Finals and win it."
You have to appreciate Rondo's confidence. Personally, I don't think Rondo would make comments like these just for the sake of making them. I think Rondo and his teammates firmly do believe they're still capable of winning a championship, no matter how "old" they might be.
Team USA Talk
Rondo has yet to make the final 12-man Team USA roster, but he's already alluded to one of the major differences between the international game and the NBA that suits his natural tendencies.
Rondo taking gamble with Team USA - ESPN
"I think there's more gambling in the international game. You gamble and rotate, try to force the tempo with the opponents, speed it up and try to make them turn the ball over," Rondo said Wednesday. "Everyone can play defense, but I try to bring a different type of level of intensity when I pick up the ball at the guard spot. They want me to.
"I don't do it in the NBA because there's 82 games and I'm playing 39-42 minutes, but I won't play so many minutes here, so when I'm tired I can come out."
"You can't hand check in the NBA. Never. You can't touch at all," Rondo said. "But I like the international game, I think it fits my style better -- a lot faster pace, the rules are different, you can be more physical up top with the guards. Plus, they haven't seen my game, so I'll use my quickness to my advantage.'
Sheridan pointed out in his article something that was reiterated on the live broadcast of the team's White vs. Blue scrimmage last night: This specific team might very well be more likely to include players who are capable of playing more than one position, which could put Rondo at a disadvantage. Rondo has a fair amount of competition at the point guard spot, as veteran Chauncey Billups, and youngsters Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans are all vying for a place on the roster.
I think Rondo might be Team USA's best bet defensively at the point guard spot, and he just might have a leg up on his competition if head coach Mike Krzyzewski is as committed to a defensive-minded, uptempo team as reports indicate.