Celtics Draft Central - presented by Sentient.

Draft Notebook: Ainge Relishes Landing Rondo

By Peter F. Stringer
June 29, 2006

WALTHAM - Rajon Rondo said all along he didn't know what to expect from the 2006 NBA Draft.

When he was here for his second Celtics workout on Monday, he said he could go anywhere from #6 - #26, and may not even have been sure he'd go in the first round of the draft, since he didn't make the trip to New York for the festivities. Instead, he gathered with friends and family at a restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky to watch the NBA Draft on TV.

Rondo thought there was a chance he'd be drafted by the Celtics, but he never really knew it would happen until it actually did.

"I was surprised until Andy Katz came on and said that Boston was trying to trade for me with Phoenix," said Rondo. "Everybody was excited when they called me at 21."

Coming into the draft, Ainge wasn't sure that he'd be able to pull off the trade with Portland for Sebastian Telfair and still be able to acquire Rondo, but when he was still on the board at the 15 spot, it looked more and more like a possibility, and the deal was struck with the Suns.

Ainge said he's been watching Rondo and Telfair for a long time.

"I've watched these kids since they were young, and they just stood out in every game I've ever seen them in. Their special skills stood out." said Ainge, who noted that both guys have styles that would have lent themselves to the 1980's Celtics. "They could play in any era, at any time."

And coming into the 2005-2006 season, Ainge had Rondo ranked as the top point guard prospect in the 2006 NBA Draft. While Rondo didn't have a fantastic season, Ainge's rankings didn't change by the time June rolled around, and after some wheeling and dealing, the Celtics got their man, acquiring his draft rights in a deal with the Phoenix Suns, who selected him at #21 for Boston.

So why was Rondo still there? The knock on him has been that he's not a great shooter, and to his credit, Rondo seems to acknowledge it to some degree. But he thinks that he'll be more concerned with getting the ball to the team's established shooters and can make up for his deficiency in other ways.

"There's always going to be critics, everybody has something to say," said Rondo. "Everybody has a weakness, but my intangibles can cover it up. I'm not going to be the best shooter on the team when you've got Delonte West and Paul Pierce, who's a great shooter, so my role is to get those guys the ball and when they get double teamed, get the open shot."

If nothing else, he certainly knows his role already.

Ainge especially loves the intangibles that Rondo brings to the table, and is excited about his rebounding and ball hawking defense. But Rondo's calling card is his speed, and Ainge expects that it could make him a "special player" in the NBA thanks to the way the game has shifted to an emphasis on perimeter and pick-and-roll play.

Summer League Roster Rounding Out

In addition to Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Dwayne Jones, Telfair and Rondo, Ainge also mentioned a few names that will be joining the Celtics on their Summer League team next week, the most notable of which is shooting guard Allan Ray from Villanova, who went undrafted Wednesday night.

"I've never seen a college kid have as good a career as him and not get drafted," said Ainge. "We think he has a chance to make our team, and he was one of the best shooters in college basketball."

Also expected to join the squad are two other players who worked out for the Celtics before the draft. According to Ainge, Wes Wilkinson (Nebraska, shot blocker and three-point shooter) and Akin Akingbala (Clemson) will be on the team as well.

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