After spending the first nine seasons of his career playing in Boston, Rondo appreciates the passion that the local fans have. He knows a lot of the booing stems from love.
“These fans are great,” Rondo said before Tuesday’s shootaround. “I wouldn’t expect anything else. A couple nice words were said when I walked out of the tunnel, but that’s Boston. They’ve been doing that for me for nine years while I was here so I don’t expect it [another way].”
Rondo has enjoyed being back in Boston and seeing some of his fans around the city.
“I’ve been walking the streets the last couple of days,” he said. “It’s a pretty good welcoming back — [people ask] for autographs and pictures so they have to boo me. Obviously I’ve got on a red jersey, so it’s part of it.”
Rondo, who signed a two-year, $28 million dollar deal with the Bulls last summer, saying that this season has been one of the most trying of his 11-year career.
He was benched at the end of December and didn’t play for five games before returning to a reserve role. He was fined in late January after ripping veterans Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler in an Instagram post. Then after the Bulls dropped five straight at the beginning of March, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg decided to re-insert Rondo into the starting lineup, and the veteran point guard helped push the Bulls into the playoffs.
Rondo said making the playoffs has helped change how he feels toward Hoiberg and the organization.
“Obviously I think it helps a lot,” Rondo said. “This team was put together in a couple months. I think 10 new guys, so it’s hard to jell that quickly. Especially if guys don’t have the right mindset. At the same time, I feel organizations have to give guys a little bit of time to grow and learn each other. Everyone’s not going to be San Antonio, but for me I feel you try to always keep your guys together as long as possible so they can develop a chemistry and to make deep runs in the playoffs, go through things together and grow. If that’s the case here, that’d be great. If not, it’s up to those guys.”
When asked specifically whether he was hopeful the Bulls would pick up his option for next season, which includes a $3 million buyout if he does not return, Rondo responded optimistically.
“I like where I’m at,” he said. “I think we have a really good team. We made a big trade halfway through the season, a lot of things we went through this year with 45 different lineups, we still made it to the playoffs. Right now, just try to stay as consistent as possible and develop some type of chemistry with these guys.”
Rondo also noted that he was hopeful he could stay in Chicago even if Wade declined his player option for next season and decided to play elsewhere.
Rondo has developed into one of the most popular players in the Bulls’ locker room over the year and has stayed after practice many times to work with the younger players on the Bulls roster.
“If those guys want to listen, I try to give as much advice as possible,” Rondo said. “I remember when I was a younger cat I always thought the veteran guys talk too much. I don’t always want to be the guy that’s talking, but when they ask questions I try to give my best advice. Not just talking about it, I try to lead by example.”