Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo share a close bond on and off the court.On the court, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett often work harmoniously, whether it's creating their own pick-and-roll, or defending that of an opponent, or connecting for an alley-oop when the defense is caught off guard. But their relationship continues off the court as well, as the two sport one of the tightest friendships you'll find in the Celtics' locker room.
"I would probably say Kevin is my closest friend on the team. Kevin always wants to see me do well," Rondo said at the team's media day last week. "From Day 1, I think my second year, when he first came in, he told me he would be disappointed if I wasn't the MVP of the league one day, if I wasn't considered one of the best point guards one day, so he's always pushed me and expected more out of me than a lot of people did, and he's always showing me how to become a better person each day.
"Whenever I mess up, Kevin's always the one that will tell me, 'You should do this,' 'You should conduct yourself this way, or handle it that way,' so he's kind of like a big brother or mentor, and he's always wanted the best for me, so that's how we kind of gravitated toward each other. Obviously, off the court we have a lot of things in common. We share the same interest in a lot of things and like I said, he's been kind of like a big brother to me."
Those interests seem to include music, as Rondo and Garnett were spotted together at a Drake concert in Toronto this past August, where they even posed for a picture with rapper Snoop Dogg.
Melded to that friendship is a genuine respect between the two players. Rondo's established himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA, but he still marvels at Garnett's career, which is about to enter its 18th season.
"The way [Garnett] goes about the game, the way he approaches the game, he's a future Hall of Famer, I consider him to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game that's been in front of me," Rondo said. "So he's inspired me to work hard, come in every day, and get up extra shots, take care of my body, getting proper rest, getting massages, getting treatment, getting stretching. It's just how to have longevity in the NBA. He's played for 17, 18 years and only two or three players can say they've done it, this era -- Jason Kidd, I don't even know anybody else. It's the way to take care of your body. It's not easy. I'm feeling it now six years in. So, 17, 18 years, I can only imagine what his body feels like. But, he's very disciplined and he takes care of his business."
Garnett mulled over the prospect of retirement this past summer, and while Rondo wanted him to return for another season, he knew it was his friend's decision.
"[Game 7] in Miami, Kevin and I rode back on the bus together and I asked him right away, 'What are you gonna do? I would really like you to come back,'" Rondo explained. "But, obviously, he had to listen to his body and how he felt mentally. I want Kevin to play as long as possible, but obviously there's more to life than just basketball. When he made the decision to come back, I was very excited."
Excited to still be around Garnett, without question, but also excited for what it meant to the Celtics. When asked, Rondo said he didn't take it personal when critics questioned Garnett's effectiveness now that he's entering his late 30s, noting instead that the critics can't understand Garnett's game-by-game importance.
"I laugh when people says he's old or he doesn't do this or can't do that, because if you know the game of basketball, it's one thing, but when you play with Kevin, he does so many little things that don't show up in the stat book, or when you play with another big guy that isn't Kevin Garnett, you know what you're missing out there on the floor.
"Obviously in the playoffs he had a great run. If you look at, statistically, the plus/minus when Kevin was on and off the floor, there was a big difference. Kevin does so many little things, as little as pick setting, loading to the ball, taking up space as far as on the defensive end, setting the right pick angles with me on pick-and-rolls, so I don't take Kevin for granted, and our team doesn't as well. We value him very much and he'll be a big part of when we try to win a championship this year."