WALTHAM, Mass. — Rajon Rondo was simply speaking the truth when he remarked last week that, despite the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat no longer being rivals, “I still don’t like those guys.”
Rondo’s admission made him even more of a hero among his fans, but his sentiment wasn’t unique toward the Heat. Anybody wearing a different jersey raises Rondo’s ire, he clarified, whether it’s an opponent the Celtics have battled in a conference finals or a meaningless non-conference foe.
So, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett due to visit Boston on Sunday for the first time as members of the Brooklyn Nets, Rondo was asked if his distaste for opponents extended to his close friends and former teammates, as well.
“It’s different if I played with you,” Rondo said Saturday at the Celtics’ practice facility. “But you have to be one of my teammates. Same thing goes for [Kendrick Perkins] or, like, [Oak Hill teammate] Josh Smith, but at the end of the day, I’m competing. I won’t hold anything back. It’s different when you’ve played with a guy and won a championship with a guy. Then again, at the same time, I’m trying to destroy him, to go at him.”
On Friday, Garnett shared some emotional reflections on his time in Boston, suggesting a few eyes may get a little misty at TD Garden on Sunday. When a reporter put forth that Rondo might tear up at the sight of Pierce and Garnett in different uniforms, Rondo shot back, “Have you seen me tear up before? OK, then.”
There’s a wide gulf between utter hatred and inconsolable sobbing, however. Whereas the Heat are not far from the former end of that spectrum, Pierce and Garnett lie a lot closer to the latter end — probably a lot closer than Rondo will admit.