Rondo Admits 'It’s a Little Strange' Returning to Boston as a Laker

BOSTON – Rajon Rondo, since being traded by the Celtics four years ago, has made numerous returns to Boston while suiting up in a variety of uniforms. Thursday’s homecoming will be the most peculiar of them all.

That’s because the former Celtics All-Star will be representing the team that was his arch-rival for eight and a half seasons in Boston – the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s a little strange,” Rondo admitted Thursday morning of the prospect of wearing purple and gold at TD Garden later that night. “But I’ve been back in other uniforms as well. It’s still always home.”

Rondo left “home” in December of 2014 when the Celtics traded him to Dallas. He has since made additional stops in Sacramento, Chicago and New Orleans, respectively, before landing in L.A. this past offseason.

Playing for the Lakers has also given Rondo the opportunity to suit up alongside one of his former personal rivals in LeBron James. Though, injuries have derailed both of their seasons, so they’ve only played together 12 times during the Lakers’ first 54 games.

“I’m trying to stay healthy,” Rondo said, having just returned two weeks ago from surgery on his right ring finger. “It’s been a long season, obviously with ups and downs, but for the most part, for me mentally, I’m just trying to stay healthy and do the best I can when I’m on the court, off the court, to help the team.”

On the court, Rondo has been his typical self as a primary facilitator and a double-double machine. In 20 games, he has averaged 8.8 points, 7.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game, all while logging seven double-doubles. In six games since returning from the surgery, he has upped those marks to 9.8 PPG, 9.8 APG and 6.3 RPG.

Even when not playing, Rondo has found ways to impact the team off the court as a leader for the young Lakers. It’s a role that he has grown into and embraced for a number of teams over the last few years.

“Since I went to Sacramento (in 2015), I was almost the oldest guy on the team and I was 28,” Rondo said. “So, at 32 now, I still feel good physically and mentally. There’s still a couple of guys on the team that are older than me, but I’ll accept any role I’m given. It’s just about leadership and helping all the young guys.”

Rondo began developing his leadership skills in Boston, where he played under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett. A number of KG’s lessons have stuck with the point guard throughout his travels.

“You just can’t pick and choose when you want to be a leader,” Rondo explained as one of those lessons. “It has to be every day. You can’t wake up when you’re not feeling well and go out here and not give your team your best effort or your best leadership skills. So, me personally, I’ve learned that a long time ago from my vets – KG in particular – it’s just being a consistent leader every day.”

Rondo will continue to put those leadership skills to the test Thursday night in the house that raised him, as he returns to Boston in peculiar fashion – as a member of the arch-rival Lakers.