While maintaining that it's in the past and not a big deal, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge shed light on the disconnect between the team and Rajon Rondo late last month when the captain did not travel with the team from Los Angeles to Sacramento.
Rondo, who wasn't scheduled to play on the second night of a back-to-back as part of his recovery from ACL surgery, elected to stay behind in Los Angeles (where the Celtics had played the Lakers) and celebrate his 28th birthday while his teammates lost to the Kings.
Ainge confirmed Wednesday that Rondo had told both him and coach Brad Stevens of his intent to stay behind and was told that would be frowned upon.
“He let Brad know and he let me know that he was going to stay in L.A. an extra day,” Ainge said in his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “We didn’t think that he should, but [told him], ‘It’s your choice and there may be consequences if you stay.’ It’s that simple.”
It does not appear there were any consequences, at least none that were revealed publicly.
“In the end, him and I had a long talk about it. This was all happening over the phone,” Ainge said. “He had planned it before and he had reason to believe that it would be OK. I understand his reason to believe based on where he’s been and what he’s grown up with and what he’s seen and witnessed. You won’t see it happen again, and we’ve just moved on from it.”
In Rondo’s eyes, he was still playing by the rules of the previous regime. “We’ve had a culture here that’s been a little bit different," Ainge said.
He added, "These kind of things have happened. We had a head coach [Doc Rivers] that lived in a different city and would take different planes to different cities. We’ve had [Kevin Garnett], who I think Rondo has probably learned more from as a leader and a basketball player and a pro than any other players because he was so young in his career playing with KG. KG didn’t sit on the bench when he didn’t play, and Rondo’s been doing that every game except that Sacramento game and the Milwaukee game, which we held him back [in Boston] because we wanted to do therapy there.”
Ainge says all parties have put Birthdaygate behind them, and maintains he not only has a good relationship with Rondo but has “no issues whatsoever with Rondo being our captain.”
“I think that now Rondo understands more clearly what we want out of him as a captain, that we want him on the road with the team,” Ainge said. “His leadership on the bench is important, whether he plays or doesn’t, unless there’s a reason physically to not be with the team.”
Ainge was also asked what it would mean to him if his number (44) is retired by the Celtics, which owner Wyc Grousbeck said the team would eventually do.
“Honestly, not much,” Ainge said. “I don’t think I should have my number retired. That’s nice of Wyc. Wyc has been a great owner to work with and we have a great relationship, but it wouldn’t mean that much to me because I don’t think my number deserves to be retired.”
Ainge spent nearly eight seasons in Boston as a player, winning two championships in 1984 and '86, and led the team to a championship in 2008 as president of basketball operations.