BOSTON (CBS) — Fresh off of the Pistons’ third straight defeat, Josh Smith popped into the Celtics’ locker room Sunday night.
The visit was brief, as Smith seemed overwhelmed by the vast number of media that filled the room following Boston’s 118-111 win over the Pistons. After searching through the crowd, the veteran power forward found his target fairly quickly, exchanging a few friendly words with Rajon Rondo before departing.
Smith spoke about the friendship the two former high school teammates still share with each other at the NBA level earlier in the night.
“Most definitely,” Smith explained upon being asked if he was still close with the Celtics’ point guard. “We call each other once in a while to check on each other, to see how one another are doing. We definitely connect. He’s one of my best friends, definitely in the NBA. We take family vacations together.“
Smith and Rondo share a close bond from their days at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia where they spent time together both on the floor and as roommates.
Nine years later, both are now highly-paid players for their respective NBA teams.
Rumors surrounding the possibility of Rondo and Smith teaming up in the NBA had swirled in league circles for the past couple years. The Celtics had regularly been mentioned to be interested in acquiring the former Hawk via trade or free agency, but those rumors became moot last summer, as the Pistons signed Smith to a four-year $54 million dollar contract.
“I thought it could have been a possibility,” Smith said of potentially joining Boston last year, “but you know I’m in Detroit. I’m happy I’m here. [Rondo’s] still here [in Boston]. He’s still creating his mark as a Celtic.”
Even though both players are under contract with their respective teams for the foreseeable future, Smith admitted that he still talks about the possibility of teaming up with Rondo down the road.
“The conversation comes up,” Smith acknowledged. “We always tell each other how surreal a moment for us to be able to reconnect in that realm but with the different free agencies that we both have, it can be far-fetched. But it could be possible, too.”
Smith continued: “I’m always optimistic and always think of different scenarios. It could happen, but who knows?”
For the time being, the idea of playing with Rondo looks like more of a pipe dream than anything else for Smith. After last night’s setback, the Pistons have dropped 10 of their last 12 games overall and are just two games ahead of the Celtics in the standings, despite boasting a considerable edge in frontline talent over Boston this season.
Smith has been a major factor during this underwhelming season for the Pistons, posting a career-worst 41.7 percent shooting percentage so far this season. He’s also taking a career-high 3.3 shot attempts from 3-point range each game, despite shooting a paltry 23.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Those numbers, combined with Smith’s hefty salary, will keep Boston’s front office from trying to acquire the 28-year-old forward anytime soon, unless they are able to unload Gerald Wallace’s contract in such a deal. It’s highly doubtful Detroit (or any other team) would be interested in such a move.
On the flip side, Brandon Jennings is signed for the next two seasons with the Pistons, making it hard to envision any possibility that Detroit could try to reunite Rondo and Smith via trade this summer. There simply wouldn’t be room for both Rondo and Jennings together on the same roster.
With no clear reunion on the horizon, Smith will continue to watch and admire Rondo from afar, as the point guard tries to embrace his new captainship role.
“I think being a veteran on the team, teaching these guys verbally and showing them how to do it,” Smith said. “He’s a player with a very high basketball IQ and he’s doing his due diligence on how to win and how to do it the right way.”
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