BRIGHTON, MA — “I got a great invite. I got an email a couple of weeks back.”
Joe Mazzulla’s plan to surround the current Boston Celtics with former players took another step on Friday as Rajon Rondo was at the Auerbach Center for Celtics practice.
The former Celtics All-Star said he spoke to his ex-teammate Paul Pierce, who has been leading the charge for returning players.
“I talked to one of my old teammates, Mr. Pierce, and they told us we were welcome back,” Rondo said after Friday’s practice.
Pierce, who is always one for spectacles, made sure to let Rondo know as soon as possible.
“Paul called me at like three in the morning,” Rondo said. “He was like, ‘Look, they want us back. I’m like, ‘Hello?’ Like I said, it was a great call, and here I am today.”
Rajon Rondo said Paul Pierce called him at “three in the morning” to let him know the Celtics wanted them back.— Jack Simone (@JackSimoneNBA) October 20, 2023
He was one of the former Celtics Joe Mazzulla emailed.
“I got a great invite. I got an email a couple of weeks back.”
More for @celticsblog soon. pic.twitter.com/QxMfsXv0Wd
Earlier in training camp, Mazzulla revealed his plans, noting that he wants to further the Celtics brotherhood and give the current team an example of the Celtics tradition.
It’s an uncommon strategy at the NBA level, especially with how much player movement there is nowadays, but the Celtics are a unique case.
Boston has such a rich history of winning, including lots of All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers. Their ability to shroud their players with support from guys who are all-in on the Celtics is special, and it’s something the former players don’t take for granted, either.
“You do that in a lot of college programs, where alumni come back,” said Rondo. “But in the pros, you don’t do it as much because guys [get] traded [to] so many different teams, and it’s the NBA. So, to get that email was very welcoming and, like I said, humbling at the same time.”
Throughout his time in the NBA, Rondo was known as one of the smartest players on the hardwood. His skills at the point guard position were outmatched by his mind for the game, and that’s something he can pass down to not only the players but the staff as well.
He caught up with Mazzulla, former 2008 Celtics teammate Sam Cassell, Jeff Van Gundy, and others at Celtics practice, noting they “had a good opportunity to talk basketball and hear each other’s thoughts.”
Rondo’s championship run alongside Pierce, Cassell, and others was the last time Boston reached the NBA’s mountaintop, a feat they are attempting to replicate this season.
As the season gets underway, Rondo’s eyes are on one addition in particular: Jrue Holiday.
“Well, they’re pretty impressive, obviously, like everyone thinks on paper, but I love the Jrue Holiday pickup. He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with. All-time. And I’m excited for you guys to see what he can bring night in, night out.”
Rondo and Holiday played together for one year as the starting backcourt of the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017-18. They went 48-34 and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs before losing 4-1 to the eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors.
Holiday’s hard-working approach matched the high basketball IQ of Rondo, and the two meshed well. It’s that approach that Rondo is most excited for with Holiday.
“Just his mentality, his mindset, his professional approach to the game, and just what he brings out there on the court,” Rondo said of Holiday. “He does a lot of intangibles. He’s a very unselfish guy, and he’s fun to be around, and he’s a winner. He’s a competitor.”
Having Rondo around will allow the Celtics to pick his brain, learn from his experiences, and grow from that knowledge, just as they are able to with Pierce and others.
He said that he’s not officially retired and joked that he’s “looking for an eight-day contract,” but that a 10-day is “too long.” The 37-year-old noted he’s back in school at Kentucky, where he left after two years to join the NBA, and working on a Communications degree.
Rondo also unveiled that he plans on getting into coaching eventually, and right now, he’s working with his son’s AAU program. He said he plans on learning as much as he can from Mazzulla.
But with the Celtics, Rondo’s ready to help, and he’s just excited they wanted him to.
“It’s like going on a date,” Rondo said. “You don’t get asked out too often, and when you get your first date, it’s like, you get excited about it.”