For the average NBA player, talent is the only factor that determines the path of his career. The more talent he has, the more desirable he is in a league where trades are often based solely on the exchange of one talent for another. But Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics is not an average NBA player. While Rondo earned a championship ring with the team in 2008 and lead the league in assists in both the 2011-2012 season and the 2012-2013 season (with 11.7 and 11.1 assists per game, respectively), he has set himself apart with more than just statistics. It would take some digging to find a recent Celtics interview in which a fellow teammate, be it a fresh rookie or a seasoned veteran, did not express an eagerness to play with Rondo. Teammates claim they are excited to share the floor with the recently appointed captain because of his exceptional passing and leadership; what they don’t always cite, but certainly should not go unnoticed, is his powerful aura. Throughout the league, he is feared by some, but respected by almost all. He is the only remaining member from that historical 2008 team to still suit up in green and white. He was the one who set up Kevin Garnett’s dunks, Ray Allen’s three pointers, and Paul Pierce’s and-ones. Yet he did so quietly, receiving significantly less praise and attention than the members of the Big Three.
But now is different. Now is his time. Which is not to say that he will bask in the spotlight that he deserves, for he has been known to do things that others in his place might consider “beneath them” (helping children with math homework and interning at GQ, to provide a few examples). It is rather a time for him to embrace that leadership role, not only in his play, but in his presence. His duties include mentoring younger players on the team such as Phil Pressey and rookies Marcus Smart and James Young, collaborating with 37 year old head coach Brad Stevens, and showing teammates, fans, and the entire city of Boston what Celtics pride looks like. Last season might not have gone as well as the team had hoped, but with the off-season additions of noteworthy players such as 7-footer Tyler Zeller and experienced guard Marcus Thorton, as well as the return of Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger, games truly have the potential to shake out differently this year. But only under Rondo’s guidance. If, and only if, he serves as the glue binding the green together, the Celtics have a shot at being more than an average NBA team.