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Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said that he is embracing the challenge of a rebuild and hopes to aid the team in that process.
Rondo, speaking to reporters Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston after formally announcing he has joined the ANTA shoe brand, dispelled the notion that Boston's roster overhaul this past summer, which included trading away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, might leave him yearning to join a contender rather than endure another rebuilding process.
"I love it here. The fans are great here," Rondo said, according to Comcast SportsNet. "And [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] has been straightforward with me. This is my team. Why would I want to leave? Why would I want out?
"I never really backed away from a challenge. This would be a challenge. I'm looking forward to working with coach [Brad] Stevens. It's a brand-new start for us as a team. A lot of new players and a lot of young guys willing to listen, so I'm very excited about that."
Rondo has two years and $24.9 million remaining on his contract. Ainge stressed all summer he had no desire to trade Rondo, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in January and missed the Celtics' final 38 regular-season games as well as the postseason.
Upon being hired, Stevens made an effort to connect with the point guard, traveling to his summer camp in Louisville during his first week on the job.
Rondo has previously noted the immediate bond he formed with his new coach.
"Me and Brad have become best friends," Rondo said on the team's media day. "We talk every day, we laugh and joke, we just had dinner the other night. I'm going to help him, he's going to help me. He has my full support, and I told him from day one when he came to my camp [in Louisville for their first meeting in July], I'm 100 percent behind him."
The team has not established a timeline for Rondo's return, telling him to come back when he feels ready physically and mentally. Ainge and Rondo have hinted at a possible December return without unveiling a firm timeline.
Asked Tuesday about the next hurdle in his recovery, Rondo said, "Just getting my leg as strong as possible and getting my mind as strong as possible [to] get back out there and believe in my leg and do the things that I was able to do before this injury."
Later he added, "I don't want to come back and just be mediocre or have excuses about why I'm not playing up to par. When I come back, I won't have any excuses. I'll be ready to go. And if I'm not playing up to par, it's just on me. I won't blame it on my knee."