BOSTON — Time and time again the word was used in the preseason.
To the point where you had to wonder if it was just an overused Celtic talking point.
That simple but powerful term has fit scores of Celtics over the years like a broken in pair of high tops.
But Rajon Rondo?
He’s breathtaking, he’s unique, he’s maddening, he’s the star of stars when the lights are brightest. He’s so many things, but leader, for years, would be the last quality you’d attach to him.
There was almost a dismissive “Rondo being Rondo” description. He was a bit aloof, a bit arrogant, a bit quirky.
But the Celtics say he has grown, that he has deftly dealt with having three larger than life teammates in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett the now-departed Ray Allen, all three of whom may be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
At 26, the seventh-year guard out of Kentucky is at the top of his game and relishing the chance to lead the aging but still formidable Celtics, who open up their season at defending champion Miami Tuesday.
At the recent Celtics media day, new Celtic Jason Terry talked about winning the 2011 NBA title with the Mavericks.
He said, “It was all about sacrifice. In Dallas, Jason Kidd was a big part of that. You have to have a leader. You have to have a guy running the ship. Here in Boston you have Rondo. He’s the best in the business, if you ask me.”
Former teammate Keyon Dooling called him, “The most underappreciated leader in this league” and “an amazing leader.”
Kevin Garnett said of the leadership role, “It’s something he’s earned.”
Let’s take a look at some characteristics of a leader and if Rondo does indeed possess them.