Paul Pierce glowingly talks about Rajon Rondo as a leader

Is there any athlete in Boston more polarizing than Rajon Rondo?

There is a group of people who believe he needs to go basically at any cost. That while talented he has absolutely no leadership qualities, and the next era of Celtics basketball is doomed if he sticks around. He's a petulant child they say. He drove Doc out of town, his teammates don't like him, and he's a head case who's antics (numerous run-ins with refs, fighting Kris Humphries, getting suspended in the playoffs) will always overshadow his play.

And then there is another group. A group that feels Rondo is the future. That trading him now when he's the team's only All-star caliber player — is insane. They've seen how dominant Rondo can be in the playoffs and feel that while he can be immature, that immaturity is overblown by the other group and that this team should re-build around him, not without him.

One thing is for certain: whatever side you're on, you aren't budging. Both sides are dug in, waiting to see what happens with this team as Rondo comes back from injury.

Personally if I had to describe myself as one side or the other, I'm pro-Rondo. Very few players can outplay the likes of Derrick Rose (in 2009), LeBron James (2010), Kobe Bryant (2010), Carmelo Anthony (2011), and Dwyane Wade (2012) in playoff series. When you get one of those players, you hold on to them even if sometimes they do things so maddening you feel like throwing your remote through a wall (bumping the ref in the playoffs in 2012 was one of the stupider things I've seen in the NBA. If you believe he your life). I'm also in favor of Danny Ainge keeping all of his options open. If another team blows you away, as in offers a young, cost controlled star for Rondo, you absolutely consider it. But trading him for some combination of picks and cap relief doesn't do it for me. Trading Rondo is trading your only calling card. After all, no one is coming to Boston to play with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, no matter how nice they may be.

As someone who is pretty dug in on the "Keep Rondo" side, it was pretty re-assuring to read Paul Pierce glowingly discuss #9 in Gary Washburn's weekend column for the Boston Globe. Pierce says Rondo not only is a great player, but that he's ready to lead the franchise.

“Without question [Rondo can be the man in Boston],” Pierce said. “I’ve already talked to Rajon; Rajon’s mature. People talk about the relationship with Doc [Rivers], and they probably had their best years over the last two years. So I don’t think that was a reason for Doc leaving. I’ve heard that, but that wasn’t a reason for Doc not coming back.

“Rondo is one of the best players in the league. He’s a guy who can be the face of a franchise. He’s won a championship, he’s been an All-Star. There’s a lot of organizations who don’t even have a face of that caliber.

“I definitely think he’s matured and can handle a lot. I talked to him and he’s ready for the challenge. He knows that it’s his team. He knows he has to be a leader, and from being around me and Kevin [Garnett] and seeing how we work.”

With Pierce and Garnett gone, Rondo will take on much of the responsibility of keeping the Celtics respectable. But Pierce said Rondo needs assistance from teammates such as Jeff Green, who may capitalize on Pierce and Garnett not being there.

“Rondo’s got to understand he’s got to put responsibility on some of the other guys,” Pierce said. “Maybe like a Brandon Bass or some of the older players. It’s hard when it comes from just one guy. There’s got to be other guys who command respect on the team, that help out with that role.”

If Pierce were still in Boston, I could understand people saying that the comments don't mean much. After all, players go to bat for their teammates, sometimes saying things they may not really mean. Hell, the Yankees are defending Alex Rodriguez even though he's one of the biggest cheaters in pro sports history. But Pierce is gone, what does he have to gain by supporting Rondo so emphatically? He could easily just answer the question half-heartedly, "Oh yea Rajon's a great player but I'm focused on the Nets now", or refuse comment all together. These comments were genuine, and they mean something. Rondo still needs to prove that he can lead the team, but hearing someone who just got done doing that speak so highly of him is at the very least encouraging.

Not that I expect the people who think Rondo needs to go to change their mind. Again, both sides are dug in. And no ones about to change sides.

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