Happy New Year everyone! There’s no better way to get back into the swing of things than with a brand-new SLAM. This month we’re coming with some “Point-Guard Madness,” a topic I discuss at length in my Editor’s Letter. To drive this topic home we have two covers this month: an “A-B split” of Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. “A-B” means every newsstand should have both issues, which means the true SLAM diehards can cop both issues. And, as always, both will soon be available in the SLAM section of simbackissues.com.

Besides CP and Rajon, we’ve got great features on Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Blake Griffin, Calvin Murphy and so much more good stuff. But you guys know our biggest thing is always our covers. For more on Chris Paul, click over to Vince Thomas’ blog right here. For more on Khalid’s experience writing about Rajon—and maybe a little Philadelphia Eagles talk—just scroll down…—Ed.

by Khalid Salaam

Based upon the players there I had my assumptions, but after going to a Celtics game and seeing it up close I know it for a fact now: The Celtics are the most entertaining team in the League. I’m not talking about on and off the court. The locker room (which, btw, is physically small compared to others I’ve been in) is basically a comedy show. Dudes clowning each other on music or clothes choices, media members laughing as much as interviewing (Glen Davis is remarkably funny—he is very candid to say the least.) and just an overall lack of formality makes it an interesting place. Included in this are the Celtic team employees.

For instance, there’s a bathroom to the left of the media dining room with a broken door (it could be fixed now but it was broke in December). So I’m in there washing my hands before dinner (I’m civilized like that) and I reach for the door and it doesn’t turn. So I’m like, OK, it must be still locked. It wasn’t. Well maybe I didn’t turn it hard enough, so I tried again. Nothing. So I pull on it. Nothing. I turn and pull with extra strength. Nothing. There’s a bunch of people outside the door and I’m trying to maintain a sense of dignity and not just wild out so I stop and wait for about 3 or 4 seconds. Now I’m pulling the door with all my might, I mean straight trying to pull this joint off its hinges hard. I’m cursing too. And I’m loud at that. Remember I finished washing my hands a good 2-3 minutes ago and I’m stuck inside a bathroom at the TD BankNorth Garden. Then I hear a voice from outside the door. “Turn the door knob all the way to the right and then let me push.”

So I do it.Nothing. Then the guy says, “Did you turn I all the way?”

I’m like “YEAH! What’s up with this door?”

He tells me to try again. This time it opens and he explains that “it happens sometimes” and that “it’s a good thing it wasn’t later at night when there’s less people around.”

How can this happen? I responded by saying “this is a multi-million dollar arena, this is madness!” and then he said “NO! THIS ..IS ..BOSTON!!!”

He didn’t really say that last part but that’s what he felt like to me. So I go into the media dining area and sat down at a table with a woman who works for the Celtics media relations dept who told me she’s been with the team ever since that classic triple OT game in 1976 against the Suns. I was less than a year old when that happened so of course I was fascinated and asked her a bunch of questions, to which she showed great kindness and remarkable memory retention by answering all of them. Her only question for me was what was the difference between writing and blogging (I told her it’s money). I forgot her name but she said she would look out for the Rondo issue on newsstands. I hope she does, she was really cool. I like old people if you haven’t guessed.

So I get up to get another glass of Sprite when Kendrick Perkins rolls in real regular like. He was in line making jokes about the food, which wasn’t readily available since the Garden has changed vendors. For some reason that I didn’t totally understand the new food vendor didn’t have any food ready for pre-game dining so everyone was restless. Perkins was pretty funny and apparently always comes in and makes jokes. I’ve been to a lot of games and a lot of media dining rooms. I’ve never, ever seen players come in there before. A cart of candy bars and corn chips comes out and all the NESN, WEEI, and ESPN people go hard for it. I join them and take two Kit-Kats to my arena seat.

I say this all to reiterate what an interesting team this is. KG, Shaq, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson all give good quotes. So does Coach Rivers and even Rondo, whose rep for being quiet has to be taken into context. With that locker room anyone can seem quiet. But when I interviewed him, he was fairly talkative.

We talked about his prep days—“In HS I pretty much dominated bball in Kentucky. I mean, you know, not that I got all types of records or anything but I challenged myself everyday.” (We both laughed after he said “dominated”, that’s why he backtracked a little.) Rajon Rondo

His time at the university of Kentucky—“My proudest moments at Kentucky? I don’t have just one but I appreciate the relationships I had with the other guys. We really had a lot fun playing bball but off the court we had great times…guys like Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Patrick Sparks, all those guys.”

And what it’s like to be a leader of a team with this much personality—“I don’t think you have to have great camaraderie to win a championship but it helps a lot to get along. You don’t have to do these things but we go out to eat together, we go to the mall together, just little things we do off the court. Every different city we go places together. We play cards together, we don’t gamble though (again we both but out laughing after his gambling clarification. He says everything with sort of a deadpan delivery, so for a microsecond you’re not sure he’s joking but then he laughs so it’s obvious. I get the sense that Rondo is aware of his quiet rep and though it doesn’t bother him, he wants people to know that he can be funny when he wants to be), we just do fun things on the plane. We all understand each other and we come from similar backgrounds. Its like being with your brothers.”

I purposely didn’t ask about his injury situation, which was newsworthy then and moreso a couple of games later. I just didn’t care really. Nor did I ask him about the Heat (which one reporter did to Robinson post-game, which created yet another funny moment) nor about the age of his teammates. All of these have been asked a thousand times. I no more want to ask then they want to answer. While writing this story I watched a lot of Celtics games (and listened to the new Cee-Lo joint and the instrumental of “Devil In A New Dress”) and was initially surprised they didn’t struggle more but good teams often can withstand not having a key player for a few games. A prolonged absence though, diminishes this team greatly. I saw last night that he had 16 assists and that’s certainly a good sign. This Celtics team is a team that’s hard to dislike. They energy and skill in which they play on both sides of the court makes them fun to watch. I have no predictions about the playoffs in early January but I will say that with the Magic reloaded and Lebron and Wade vying for the 1st ever Co-MVP Award, the Eastern Conference should be fun to watch in the next few months.

One thing on a different topic for all my fellow Eagles fans (GREEN AND SILVER!, GREEN AND SILVER!), who have been through a crazy year. I predicted a 6-10, 7-9 type of year. So 10-6 is awesome and I think we’ll beat Green Bay but as I told Ben recently, after that I just don’t know. Yes the skills positions are great, but this isn’t 7-on-7 football. We’re not Super Bowl worthy. You have to have non-skill position locked down at this time of the year. And the Eagles don’t. Shaky LB’s, we don’t have a Tight End on the roster who can run block consistently, our offensive tackles are up and down, with Allen out our secondary is weak and lately Vick can’t pick up the hot read.So again if we beat the Pack (no small feat because Rodgers is sick but if we stifle the run game we should beat them) that’s all I can really ask.

However, after GB, we would play Atlanta. At the GA DOME. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Same thing Lang is thinking.

Green and Silver…..Green and Silver….

Rajon Rondo SLAM 145