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Rajon Rondo was the floor general for the Boston Celtics the last time they won a championship. The 6-foot-1 point guard out of Kentucky was in his second NBA season when the Celtics made an overhaul to their roster to make their way into the 2008 NBA Finals.

The Celtics hadn’t played for a championship since 1987. They hadn’t won one since 1986, when they defeated the Houston Rockets. Rondo knows what it takes to win a championship. He also knows what’s on the line for the Celtics this year.

Rajon Rondo says it’s championship or bust for the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo after a 95-90 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden on Monday, May 4, 2009. | Matthew West/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images.

Rondo spent nine of his 16 NBA seasons playing for the Celtics. He earned four straight All-Star selections while running the show. In his rookie year, the Celtics won 24 games, and changes needed to be made in Boston.

The following season, the Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in two separate trades. Garnett, Allen, Rondo, and Paul Pierce helped the Celtics to a 66-16 record and their first championship in 22 years. The title was the 17th overall for Boston, a record at the time. In 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th championship.

Rondo knows what Banner No. 18 would mean in Boston. After watching the Celtics come up short in the NBA Finals last year, Rondo said anything short of a championship this year is a bust.

“It’s called Titletown, Beantown, they expect a win,” Rondo said Tuesday on ESPN’s First Take. “It’s been a very long time since they hoisted that trophy, so going back to the Finals after last year and not getting it done, that’s not gonna work. We don’t hang Eastern Conference banners in Boston.”

Rondo is right on the money

This is the time of year the Celtics have been waiting for. It’s clear that after having the best record in the NBA for much of the season, the Celtics got bored. Road losses to the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, followed by a home loss to the Washington Wizards showed that Boston often plays to the level of competition.

After coming so close to tasting a championship last year, the Celtics sought redemption from the beginning of this season. Jayson Tatum admitted it was a long summer after watching the Golden State Warriors celebrate a championship on Boston’s home court.

“I’m just happy to be back playing basketball after the summer,” Tatum told Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston early this season. “After losing in the Finals, all I could think about was just get ready to play again and start a new chapter.

“Said it a million times that it was a long, miserable summer, so I just wanted to get back out here and compete. I just want to win — don’t care about how many points I score. I just want to get back to that point.”

The road to “that point” begins Saturday, when the Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the postseason. Boston’s biggest issue last year was its lack of depth, and that problem was solved. The Celtics traded for veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon, who has taken Boston’s second unit to another level.

The pieces are in place. The motivation is there. Rondo is spot on when he says anything short of a championship in Boston won’t do.


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