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The Celtics have one captain, but at least three leaders in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo.Maybe no storyline has been as prevalent at the start of training camp as Rajon Rondo's ascension to the role of team leader. Coming off a summer in which Doc Rivers made numerous references to this being Rondo's team, coupled with Rondo organizing offseason full-team workouts in Los Angeles, everyone seems in a rush to suggest he's the only one steering this ship.
Rondo is embracing a leadership role, but stresses this isn't a one-man operation.
"I’m not the team leader," Rondo said Monday before the team departed for Turkey. "Everybody keeps saying that, [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] put that pressure on me [by calling Rondo the team's best player]. There’s 15 guys on this team. Paul [Pierce has] been here for 15 years and I’m still following in his footsteps. I might be a leader as far as point guard wise, and I’ll accept that role. But three or four guys are the leaders -- Kevin, Paul, and even [Jason Terry]. They are the veterans. I’m going to lead the young guys, and try to lead the older guys as well. But I’m still following."
Downplay it as he might, Rondo has clearly taken on increased leadership responsibilities since the start of last season when Rivers said the Big Three gave him the reins.
"I don't know if [Pierce and Garnett] are pulling [Rondo up to a leadership role], or if they are just stepping back," said Rivers. "[Pierce] and Kevin are stepping back more to allow Rondo the role, to do his job, because I think they believe that's what's best for our team."
Pierce said Rondo has simply absorbed everything since he came into the league and is finally comfortable in taking on that leadership role.
"He was a quiet rookie. He came around, he was around myself and a couple older guys, so he kind of sat back and watched and was like a sponge and soaked things up," said Pierce. "And I think he just continued to learn over the years, and now he’s matured to the man he is right now, to where he’s ready for that role.”
Added Garnett: "I think you see a bit of a changing of the guard with Rondo becoming our leader. I think something that he’s earned."
Pierce seems at peace with the idea that, one day, he'll likely hand down the title of captain to Rondo.
"He’s going to be here a lot longer than me and KG," said Pierce. "It’s just important that we continue to help him grow, his development -- not only on the court, but as a person, as a leader of this ball club, and knowing that he has to take a lot of responsibility. He gets a lot of the credit for the things that we do when we win, so he’s got to accept those responsibilities."