The Celtics did take care of business last night against the New Orleans Hornets, but it seemed like the real story of the night was the matchup between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul.
Prior to the game, Rondo told reporters that he was the best point guard in the league. Before that, Kendrick Perkins was quoted in the Boston Herald as saying that according to Rondo, the reason Paul gets all those assists is because "the ball is in his hands all the time".
After the game, Chris Paul was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, "I think Rondo's a lucky guy to be able to play with a guy like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and KG, and Rasheed Wallace."
While each of these quotes may be indirect jabs at each other, they also hold some truth. Paul is relied upon more with the ball in his hands, while Rondo makes the most of the assets around him.
Sure, these players probably don't like each other, but who says that they have to?
There is nothing wrong with two players not liking each other, as long as it stays on the court. It all boils down to both players wanting the same thing for their team. It's not their job to like each other; it's their job to beat each other. The NBA needs a player rivalry like Rondo-Paul, it's good for the league and ads another element to the game. It's unfortunate that these two players only meet twice a year.
"Rondo is such a competitive player," Paul Pierce said at last night's press conference. "You also know that Chris Paul is so competitive. Those guys, they compete. Every time they match up with one another, they expect each guy to go at one another."
What is interesting though, is trying to figure out the reasons why these two players don't like each other. Is Rondo jealous of Chris Paul? Is he trying too hard to be considered better than Paul? Is Paul overrated as a point guard? What was said between Paul Pierce and Chris Paul at the end of the game that made Rondo run over and get in Chris Paul's face?
These are all questions that remain unanswered to this point, but there are two things that we do know about these two players: They're both top tier point guards in the league, and they're both completely different players.
"What (Chris Paul) does for his team, that's what they need, and what I do for my team, that's what we need," said Rondo after the game. "It's kind of two different style plays. He has to do a lot more than I have to do."
"I think it's apples and oranges," Garnett stated. They're both forces. Seeing how Rondo has taken over the game from passing to rebounding the ball, he's in all that. Chris Paul is self-explanatory. He's known for getting guys involved...he's more of a scorer now, to put that on his back night in and night out with that and Rondo has to deal with running the team, and quarterbacking, so it's almost two types of different conversations."
Pierce sees Rondo in the same light as Garnett, saying, "He's doing a great job facilitating the offense and being the quarterback. He understands that he doesn't have to score."
The trash talking was visible between the two guards throughout the game, but that is to be expected between professional athletes. It's not new to try to get in the opponents head during the game.
"Sometimes you get into a little noise, talking, but it ain't nothing serious I don't think- it's nothing personal but (Rondo and Paul) just like going at it," Kendrick Perkins said after the game.
Asked if tonight's game was the type of intensity you like to see out there, Ray Allen responded by saying, "Yeah, and to be able to walk off the floor and say, ‘way to compete tonight'. For those 48 minutes, I cannot stand you. I wanted to fight you. I wanted to do everything I possibly could. And when you walk off the floor you say, ‘way to battle'."
It's hard to say if the words "way to battle" came out of Rondo's or Paul's mouth after the game, but at the same time, it's understood. As far as that battle goes, bring it on.
"...squaring off featherweights- I mean, there's nothing wrong with having a competition," Coach Doc Rivers explained. "The competitions are great. Then that's it. They're supposed to go at each other. Paul [Pierce] is supposed to go at whoever's guarding him, and Kevin's supposed to go at whoever's guarding him. That's basketball."
So maybe there is no better point guard. Maybe these two are the best at what they do- which happen to be different things. Nobody will say that Rondo is a better shooter than Paul is, except maybe Rondo. And nobody will say that Paul is a better facilitator on offense than Rondo is, except maybe Paul.
That's what makes a rivalry fun. If these players push each other to be the best players they can possibly be, then there certainly is a winner: the fans.