BOSTON — During his ongoing contract negotiations with the Celtics brass, Rajon Rondo has been compared to the NBA's elite point guards, a list that often begins with Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets.
On Sunday, Rondo did a bit more than normal to show he could top the Hornets star.
In Boston's chippy 97-87 win over the Hornets, Rondo and Paul exchanged words on multiple occasions and were at the center of the C's first real test of their 3-0 home stand.
No punches were thrown and it would be an overstatement to say that there was shoving when the two were given double-technicals midway through the second quarter. In fact, most of the players and coaches involved took the back-and-forth to be little more than heat-of-the-moment jawing.
"Rondo is such a competitive player," said Paul Pierce, who led all scorers on Sunday with 27 points. "You also know that Chris Paul is so competitive. Those guys, they compete."
Rondo, who scored just six points but led all players with 10 assists, refused to answer questions about Paul after the game, and what exactly precipitated the spat remained a bit of a mystery. Rondo, of course, wasn't saying, and Paul just kept using words like "intensity" and "competitive" when pressed on the issue.
The dispute began when there was a bump along the sidelines just minutes into the game and — after Paul had an extended breather through much of the first quarter — the two came together in the second.
Ray Allen had just hit a 3-pointer to put the Celtics ahead 33-28. Rondo and Paul appeared to get tangled in the course of positioning for the rebound. They came up face-to-face, said a few nice things to each another and were slapped with technical fouls.
"He just said he was boxing him out," Hornets coach Byron Scott said of Paul. "I don't know what happened to him after that."
Paul, for his part, indicated it was nothing Rondo said.
"I'm not a big talker," said Paul, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the third quarter. "I'm just competitive. I want to win worse than anyone on the court."
The final and most mysterious encounter came at the final horn. As some players gave high-fives and others started to walk off the court, Paul was seen making his way toward the Celtics. He was kept at bay by players from both sides, but it was apparent he again was taking exception with Rondo.
For what, we don't know. Again, however, nobody seemed to mind.
"Squaring off featherweights," joked Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I mean, there's nothing wrong with having a competition. The competitions are great. Then that's it. I mean, jeesh. They're supposed to go at each other."
And they will continue to do so, Whether Rondo gets Chris Paul-type money or not.
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