Paul Pierce to Rajon Rondo: ‘You have to be a leader now’

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Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, now with the Brooklyn Nets, told Celtics guard Rajon Rondo that this coming season will be the toughest of his career, mentally and physically.

“Right now, he’s injured, and I told him this is probably going to be the toughest year of your whole career, mentally and physically,” Pierce said referring to Rondo’s torn right ACL. “Physically, you’re dealing with an injury. Mentally, you know nothing but winning since you came into the league… You may be put in a situation where you may not win a lot of games. You have to be a leader now; you know me and Kev are not there anymore.

“You have to go through these times. I’ve been through them. I explained to him how I went through it. I feel like, I’m one of the best players in the league and now… [Rondo is] going to be in that situation for maybe one year or two years, who knows? But you have to be mentally prepared for it, and that’s some of the things we talked about.”

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told ESPN earlier this month that the goal for Rondo, who had surgery in February, is to return by opening night in late October.

Danny Ainge¬†has suggested that the team and the player have eyed a return for the start of the season. That’s something Ainge echoed earlier this month while noting that the team and training staff were encouraged with Rondo’s rehab thus far.

Ainge did admit that the team might have to take it slow with Rondo during training camp starting in late September, but said being ready for opening night in late October was a reasonable goal.

Whenever the 27-year-old Rondo does return, he will have the chance to prove he’s a leader and cement himself as the foundation for the Celtics to build a team around.

Celtics new head coach Brad Stevens believes Rondo will embrace that challenge.

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