Rondo and Smith were teammates at Oak Hill Academy, the high school powerhouse that has a more impressive basketball alumni than most major colleges do.
NBA players aren't immune from fondly reminiscing about their high school days, of course, but Smith's recent comments to Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe feels like a little bit more than that:
“The conversation comes up,” Smith said Sunday before the Celtics defeated the Pistons, 118-111, at TD Garden. “We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm.”
Smith noted the differences with his and Rondo’s contracts — Smith is signed with the Pistons until 2016-17, Rondo’s deal expires after the 2014-15 season.
“It can be far-fetched, but it could be possible too, at the same time,” Smith said.
Has Smith ever thought that it could happen?
“I’m always optimistic,” he said. “I always think of different scenarios. It could happen, but who knows?”
Naturally, this isn't the first instance of players on opposing teams expressing the desire to play with one another. It happens quite a bit.
But while most scenarios can be dismissed as wishful thinking fairly easily, that's not necessarily the case when it comes to Smith and Rondo pairing up again soon. This could potentially work.
That seems particularly true when you consider that Detroit has reportedly shown interest in acquiring Rondo, even after trading for Brandon Jennings this offseason. Here's what Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe said after Jennings was acquired this offseason.
Just because the Pistons acquired Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with the Bucks doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in Rajon Rondo. In fact, they could eventually use Jennings as a trade chip and seek to acquire Rondo.
Perhaps that would have changed if Jennings were enjoying a great year in Detroit, but that simply hasn't been the case, as he's struggled to be an effective scorer. While acquiring Rondo might compound some of the spacing issues that have plagued the Pistons, trading from a position of strength to get a true star at point guard might make some sense.
Here's Dan Feldman from ProBasketballTalk.com with a few suggestions on how a Rondo-Smith reunion could take place:
If they were to join forces in Boston, how about Smith for Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace this summer? Then, the Pistons should have the cap room to make that deal, accepting Wallace’s toxic contract as a tax for upgrading – in age, fit and contract status – from Smith to Green.
Or if the duo got together in Detroit, a sign-and-trade centered around Greg Monroe for Rondo could work. The Pistons would surely have to include more, but that would give the Celtics a player five years younger to make a cornerstone of rebuilding.
Both are interesting options, especially if Detroit is anxious to move on from the contract that Smith signed this offseason that will pay him $13.5 million a year for the next three seasons. If a new general manager is hired to replace Joe Dumars this offseason in Detroit, perhaps that will be one of the first acts of business if Smith isn't viewed as a franchise-caliber player.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (subscription required), trading Smith might be difficult to do, however:
The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and “could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.
With that in mind, it might be easier for the Pistons to acquire Rondo, although the price probably wouldn't be very cheap. If Boston is going to trade Rondo within the conference, you would think a haul of draft picks would have to be at the forefront of any deal Celtics GM Danny Ainge desires.
Even if the Celtics aren't interested in Smith at this stage in their rebuild and aren't ready to trade Rondo, the two can find a way if it's really a priority. Rondo is on schedule to be an unrestricted free agent in the 2015 offseason, and the Pistons could potentially enter that period with enough cap space to sign Rondo outright.
There are a number of different scenarios, of course, and it sounds like Smith evaluated a few of them very recently when he was a free agent. Here's more from Smith's interview with Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe:
Smith admitted to thinking about he and Rondo reuniting last summer before Smith signed a four-year deal with the Pistons.
“I thought it could’ve been a possibility, but you know, I’m in Detroit,” Smith said. “I’m happy I’m here. He’s still here. He’s still creating his market as a Celtic.”
There's a difference between vacationing together and tying your professional careers together, obviously, but Smith and Rondo having a tight relationship is something to keep in your back pocket.
Smith and Rondo could make for a dynamic tandem provided they were in the right situation with the right supporting cast (read: shooters) and a coach who could properly maximize their strengths.
Boston or Detroit aren't ideal situations for either player at this point, or for the two as a pair. Boston probably needs all the financial flexibility and future assets they can get at this stage of their rebuild, and Rondo isn't a great fit with Detroit's current roster.
As we've seen, though, a lot can change in just a few short months. This could become even more realistic fairly easily.
And if nothing else, Smith's recent comments should make for some interesting conversation at their 10-year high school reunion this summer.