"Nothing in particular, it's just what I've been learning from those guys over the past five or six years that they've been here," Rondo said. "Just continue to grow as a person and lead by example."
We've gotten small glimpses of Rondo's leadership in recent seasons. He organized the team's offseason trip to Los Angeles for team bonding activities last summer. Rondo often helps rookies and newly acquired players get settled into their new environment. After the Maine Red Claws trekked down to help put Rondo through his final-hurdle workout two days before his return to game action earlier this month, Rondo took the entire team out to dinner to thank them.
The Celtics and Rondo discussed a contract extension recently, but those chats were largely perfunctory. Talks about keeping Rondo in a Boston uniform beyond his current deal (which expires after next season) should intensify this summer.
Just a few years back, Pierce opted out of a bloated final-year salary while inking a much more team-friendly extension to stay with the Celtics after the 2009-10 season. Rondo isn't quite at the same stage of his career and has already signed a below-market-value extension with Boston. He could set off a bidding war if he reached unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2015.
Which is why the Celtics will work hard to lock Rondo up this offseason, offering him the security of what would be three additional seasons at a modest salary increase, while also leaving the team some freedom to add premium pieces around him in order to start building another contender.
These next few years will tell us a lot about how Rondo will be remembered in Boston. If the sides part ways after this deal, he'll be viewed as a core member of a title team, but won't be the type whose number will be considered for the rafters.
But if Rondo stays -- and he said recently that he's open to spending the next 10 years in Boston -- and eventually steers the team back toward title contention, then he might just be as revered as someone like Pierce (OK, that's a tough one to live up to, but not impossible).
One thing is for certain: The longer it takes for No. 9's tribute to run, the more likely it is to be as emotional as what we experienced on Sunday.