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.