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Rondo, Atlanta's Smith reunite as rivals

Email|Print| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / November 10, 2007

There were late-night cookie fights where dessert would be flung like Frisbees at someone's head. They hung out at a gas station in tiny Mouth of Wilson, Va., because there really wasn't anything better to do, and snacks were needed for the growing boys. They played with fire extinguishers in their high school dormitory.

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and Hawks forward Josh Smith are established NBA players now. But during their biweekly telephone conversations, the former Oak Hill Academy roommates often reflect on a simpler, mischievous time when their biggest concerns were getting good grades and winning games for the nation's top prep basketball program.

Last night, the two squared off as the Celtics hosted the Hawks at TD Banknorth Garden.

"That's my homey," Rondo said. "Those were the good ol' days. There were no responsibilities. We were still kids trying to make it to the NBA."

"It was a good experience for both of us," said Smith in a recent telephone interview. "We made the best out of it. I couldn't have had a better roommate."

Because of previous AAU success, Rondo knew who Smith was and vice versa when they arrived at Oak Hill for their senior years from Louisville, Ky., and Atlanta, respectively, in 2003.

It was the first time either had lived away from home. The two marquee players immediately clicked, and switched roommates about a month into the school year so they could stay in the same room.

And when it was just the two of them hanging out, they often talked about the NBA.

"We talked about it all the time," Rondo said. "He said, 'I'm jumping.' And I said, 'I'll see you there in a couple of years.' It turned out that we're both here."

Smith turned down a scholarship to Indiana University, making himself available for the 2004 NBA draft. The Hawks selected him with the 17th pick, and he is now one of their top players.

Rondo entered the draft two years later after two seasons at the University of Kentucky. One of the Hawks' needs prior to last season was a point guard. Smith tried to sell general manager Billy Knight on Rondo, but Atlanta selected Duke big man Shelden Williams with its first-round pick, fifth overall.

Rondo was taken by Phoenix with the 21st selection, and the Celtics acquired his draft rights, forward Brian Grant, and cash considerations for a future first-round pick.

"I was disappointed," Smith said. "I'm not going to lie. I felt like we could have used him. But you know, that's how the game goes. The organization made the decision.

"We've got Acie Law now. Acie Law is doing pretty good. But you know, at that point in time, I thought [Rondo would] be a good fit for the team."

Said Rondo: "He was trying to get me there. I wouldn't say he was doing more than my agent, but he was acting like he was my agent."

Rondo said he went to Atlanta to hang out and work out with Smith last summer. And Thursday night, Rondo planned on taking Smith out to dinner, and reminisce and talk some trash.

"He's one of my close friends," Smith said. "If I tell him anything [personal], it won't get out. We talk about everything. He's like one of my brothers. He would fight for me just like I would fight for him.

"I told him we were going to give them [trouble] when we get out there. He said, 'Nah, I doubt it. We're pretty good this year.' "

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