Rondo, Smith ready for friendly rivalry

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Rondo, Smith ready for friendly rivalry

Rajon Rondos friendship with former teammate Kendrick Perkins is well publicized. But before Rondo and Perkins met on the Boston Celtics, Rondo had already developed another close relationship with a player in the NBA, one he will face in the first round of the playoffs.

Rondo and Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith played high school basketball together at Oak Hill Academy. Rondo ran the point while Smith ran the floor, wowing spectators with his athletic moves.

Josh got a lot of attention here because he was a high-profile recruit, Oak Hill Academy head coach Steve Smith told CSNNE.com earlier this season in a telephone interview. He was supposedly going to go straight to the NBA right from high school, which he ended up doing.

Back then the pro scouts could go to the McDonalds games, they could come to our practices, they could come to our games because they could take kids out of high school, that was the last year. And I remember all almost all those guys telling me, Rajon Rondo is your best pro prospect. I was telling them that before they would come in. Then they would come in -- and I think the world of Josh Smith, hes a great player and talent -- I just thought Rajon was that good, too.

During Rondos time at Oak Hill, the team went to Spain to play basketball. Smith recalled a game in which Rondo scored 55 points and drew the attention of scouts, many of whom were there to watch Smith.

He got in foul trouble, Rondo told CSNNE.com. That was a game we needed to win. I had to step up. Our best player went down.

Smith entered the NBA straight from high school in 2004 and was drafted with the 17th overall pick by the Hawks. Rondo went on to the University of Kentucky, where he played two seasons. The Phoenix Suns drafted him with the 21st pick in 2006, and the Celtics traded for him that same night.

Rondo and Smith have battled in the playoffs before. Both were starters in the seven-game 2008 first round battle between the Celtics and the Hawks. Four seasons later, they are meeting again.

Rondo is now a three-time NBA All-Star who led the NBA in assists this season (11.7 apg). Smith is still an athletic threat, averaging 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game.

Were still the best of friends, Rondo told CSNNE.com. We just go at each other.

During the NBA lockout, Rondo invited Smith to participate in his charity basketball game at Harvard University. After a regular season game in Boston, Smith stopped in the Celtics locker room looking for Rondo.

So what is 6-foot-1 Rondos plan of attack against his 6--foot-9 friend?

Im going to try to block a couple of his shots.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.