Celtics

Rondo, Garnett two peas in a pod

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Rondo, Garnett two peas in a pod

WALTHAM -- The common opinion around the NBA is, players don't enjoy playing against Kevin Garnett but love being his teammate.

Rajon Rondo only knew Garnett as an opponent during his rookie season. Over the past five years, they have developed a close relationship as teammates, mentormentee, and big brotherlittle brother.

"I would probably say Kevin is my closest friend on the team," Rondo said Friday on Boston Celtics Media Day.

In spite of a ten-year age difference, the big man and point guard have clicked. They share the same intense passion to win, as well as other interests off the court. More importantly, Garnett has been in Rondo's corner since the first day they met in the summer of 2007.

"Kevin always wants to see me do well," said Rondo. "From day one, I think my second year, when he first came in he told me he would be disappointed if I wasn't the MVP of the league one day, if I wasn't considered the best point guard one day. He's always pushed me and expected more out of me than a lot of people did. He's always showed me how to become a better person each day. Whenever I mess up, Kevin's always the one to tell me, 'You should do this, you should conduct yourself this way or handle it that way.' So he's kind of like a big brother-slash-mentor and he's always wanted the best for me. We kind of gravitated toward each other. Obviously off the court we have a lot of things in common. We share the same interest in a lot of things and like I said, he's been like a big brother to me."

Rondo is entering his seventh year in the NBA and looks up to Garnett's career, which began in 1995 when Rondo was only nine. Now 26, Rondo is incorporating some of Garnett's proven methods to maintain and extend his playing years.

"The way he goes about the game and approaches the game, he's a future Hall of Famer and I consider him one of the greatest players to ever play the game that's been in front of me," said Rondo. "So he's inspired me to work hard, come in every day and put up extra shots, take care of my body, get the proper rest, get massages, get treatment, get stretching, I guess have longevity. He's played 17 or 18 years and only two or three players can say they've done it in this era. There's a way to take care of your body. It's not easy. I'm feeling it six years in, so 17, 18 years I can only imagine what his body feels like. He's very disciplined and he takes care of his business."

Last season Garnett scoffed when critics called him "old" and questioned how many years he had left in the league. He signed a three-year deal with the Celtics this summer, just months after turning 36. Rondo laughs at the skepticism of his teammate and mentor and big brother.

"I don't take Kevin for granted and our team doesn't as well," he said. "So we value him very much and he'll be a big part when we try to win a championship this year."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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