Fri Aug 13 11:30am EDT
Rajon Rondo(notes) is kind of a weird choice for Team USA. Offensively, he's not the kind of player that typically has success in international basketball. Defensively, however, he's exactly what the United States needs — an outstanding perimeter defender skilled at shutting down the pick-and-roll. Thursday morning at Radio City Music Hall I talked with Rondo about what he means to Team USA.
Trey Kerby: Obviously you're known for your defense, and you're one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. One of the things Team USA has struggled with in the pass is pick-and-roll defense, do you think that D-ing up other point guards is something you'll be making your name on in this tournament?
Rajon Rondo: Yeah, hopefully. You know, it really coincides with the big [on the pick-and-roll] as well. With the group we have this year, I think a lot of pick-and-rolls — it depends on the situation — but we'll be able to switch one through for, with the exception of maybe Tyson [Chandler] and JaVale McGee(notes). Other than that, pretty much we're going to switch one through four.
TK: Offensively, do you think it's gonna be a lot of getting up and down the court as much as you can?
RR: It's not as many possessions as in the NBA. But we definitely want to get up and down the court, push the tempo, cause turnovers for the other guys, and just get a lot of possessions.
TK: This is your first big international tournament. What are you looking forward to doing? What kind of experience are you expecting out of this whole thing?
RR: Just to have a great time. We have a lot of great, great players in our league and I'm looking forward to the opportunity of playing with guys like Kevin [Durant] and Derrick Rose(notes). So it's pretty exciting.
I've played internationally before [for the Under-21 team], so I'm used to it. I love the style play, and I'm looking forward to it.
TK: What's the biggest adjustment you're going to have to make playing in an international tournament, compared to the NBA?
RR: Probably picking up full-court [defensively], 94 feet. In the NBA it's a long season and you can't really do that the entire game for a full season. But it's only nine games here so I'll probably be picking up every opportunity, any chance I get.
TK: Let's talk about the Celtics, of course the big move you guys made was to add Shaq. What do you feel adding him to your locker room and just being around him?
RR: I don't know because it's all new for me. I don't know Shaq at all. It's like acquiring any new player. He's a veteran. He's a winner. I don't know what he'll do for our locker room, but we have plenty of veterans. People probably figure he'll do some damage in the locker room maybe, but obviously we have a lot of veteran guys and are pretty much stuck in our ways. Our chemistry should be fine.
TK: Last year you emerged as one of the leaders of the Celtics, is that a role that you enjoy and you look forward to developing more this upcoming season?
RR: I guess it's part of the role [of a point guard]. I'm continuing to learn, continuing to grow as a young player and being the point guard for this team there is definitely a lot of responsibility. This year I'm continuing to grow as a player and accepting more and more leadership roles.
RR: Work habits. Work ethics. Our veteran guys [on the Celtics] always play hard so their work ethic shows the way. Playing out here is like playing with those guys, only younger.
TK: Being in New York City for the World Basketball Festival, basketball is everywhere. Is that something you enjoy, that everywhere you go there's going to be people talking about this whole thing?
RR: I'm used to that, playing for the Celtics and being in the Finals a couple years. It's a different stage now and it's just playing basketball. It's different from the Celtics, different kind of branding which is what people dream of — playing for their country — so it's a good opportunity for me.
TK: Heading overseas you'll be playing a lot of games in a short time frame, as opposed to the NBA where you have a nine month season. How is that different for your body?
RR: I don't think it'll be stressful for our body. We only play nine games, and we play 15 in a month during the NBA season. Now, I average probably 35 minutes a game with the Celtics and here I'll average maybe 18-20. It's a different style of play, about 30 less possessions in the international game. I don't think there's much concern for me as far as wear and tear on my body. It's a lot less minutes and a lot less games.
TK: Playing under Coach K, who's obviously a great coach, what can you learn from him?
RR: You learn something from each coach that you play for. Obviously this is my first time with Coach K, so I'm looking forward to the things that he can share with me to become a better player and a better person.
Thanks to Rajon Rondo for taking time to describe the process of playing in a huge international tournament. Thanks to Shelly Peng for getting me some one-on-one time with the Celtics star. Thanks to you for reading this.