Rajon RondoRajon Rondo returns to Boston Friday night for his first game against the Celtics after being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in December. Rondo’s presence will at least add an emotional angle to a less-than-thrilling matchup (at least, on paper) — the Celtics (11-18) are in rebuilding mode, while the Mavs (23-10) are in win-now mode. Rondo’s move from a lottery-bound squad to a Western Conference contender has apparently rejuvenated the point guard’s commitment to playing both ways, something he openly admitted to Celtics beat writer Jay King:

“I haven’t played defense in a couple of years. I’ve been able to hide it a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He’s helped me out, the young guy. But here they expect me to play defense. And in the West, if you don’t play defense you’ll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position. I took it as a challenge (for) myself. It’s not just me. It’s my teammates. Our communication is getting a lot better and our coverages are getting better. So it’s the whole team concept it’s not just me. Obviously people are going to look at the stats and say, ‘Since Rondo’s came there, they’re down seven or eight points or whatever defensively.’ But we still have a lot of room to improve and believe we’ll still get better defensively.”

Those guards Rondo was referring to includes Mike Conley, Tony Parker and James Harden, and that’s just within his own division. The rest of the conference includes Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Phoenix’s point guard hydra (Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe), and Stephen Curry. So, yes, it would behoove Rondo to at least try on the defensive end. Because lord knows Monta Ellis isn’t stopping anyone.

[Twitter, photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports]