NEW YORK — Rumors seem to surround Rajon Rondo like no other. A fresh batch is born every season, few with merit, most with none.
One of the latest eyebrow-raising reports tied the Celtics All-Star point guard to Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Steve Smith, who coached both Anthony and Rondo at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, told USA Today last week that Anthony was “recruiting” Rondo to come play for the Knicks.
“C’mon man. In my book, that’s tampering,” Anthony told reporters when asked about it.
Rondo also dismissed Smith’s comments.
“People talk, media talk, people make up rumors, people run with them,” Rondo said after the Celtics’ shootaround Tuesday before they played the Brooklyn Nets.
“That’s about it. I haven’t spoken to him. He ain’t contacted me. It’s just rumors.”
When asked if Boston is home and he is a Celtic, Rondo said, “I’m a Celtic right now.”
Rondo’s contract expires after the 2014-15 season.
For now, the four-time All-Star is still sidelined as he recovers from major knee surgery last season. His next major step is a visit later this month with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, but no timetable exists for when Rondo might return to the court.
“I’ve been anxious ever since I hurt myself,” Rondo said. “It’s a long process. Some days are better than others, but I’m patient and I’m not going to rush.”
Rondo has done some light, non-contact drills, such as sprinting and playing games of one-on-one and two-on-two with teammates. But, he said, “I haven’t done anything. I haven’t played up and down, side to side. Right now I’m doing drills, it’s not a big deal.”
He added, “I’m confident, but, like I said, I haven’t practiced or anything so it’s hard to say. [Games of] one-on-one [are] different from actually going through picks and hitting the floor, playing five-on-five, getting back in transition, making the quick moves without thinking about it. I haven’t done any of that.”
But from his perch on the Celtics bench, Rondo has been impressed with what he has seen from his teammates since the season began. Even with Tuesday night’s 104-96 loss to the Nets, the Celtics are atop the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division with a 10-13 record.
“I think it’s pretty much night and day,” Rondo said. “I think now we’re in a good groove, guys are playing for one another, making the extra pass, defensively we’re helping a lot more. I think that’s the key to our success right now.
He added later, “The way the team is playing now, it’s hard to scout our team because it’s not just one guy doing all the scoring. It’s a collective effort, a group of guys and five or six guys in double figures each night. It’s hard to stop a team. Not to compare us, but, like, the Pacers are a hard team to scout. The way we’re playing right now, we’re in good rhythm.”
Rondo is also impressed at how some of the younger Celtics have come along.
“I don’t look at them as young players,” Rondo said. “Just guys that are making the sacrifice for one another and playing for one another. I know these guys could play.”
Tuesday night’s game was the first of a reunion back-to-back, with the Celtics playing against former teammates Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the Nets before facing former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Will Rondo have any emotions when Rivers returns to Boston?
“None,” said Rondo. “I’m not an emotional guy. So I won’t tear up or anything.”
Coach Brad Stevens echoed that remark.
“I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for what he accomplished here, what he’s doing there, and the coach he is, and his staff,” Stevens said. “There’s nothing extra for me.”
Other Celtics praised Rivers and what he did for them.
“He gave me a chance to really showcase what I can do,” said Jeff Green. “And he gave me an opportunity that I needed to present myself out there to people, to come with the aggression each night.’’
Jared Sullinger played for Rivers as a rookie, but he said he learned from Rivers that he couldn’t be a rookie.
“That’s one thing he kept telling me, that if you want to play, you can’t be a rookie,” Sullinger said. “He always pushed me. I was the hardest he coached throughout the team, and every little thing I did I couldn’t get away with. He was always on me. Almost like playing for my father all over again. “
Same old stuff
Was it strange to face former teammates in Pierce and Garnett? Most Celtics said no. “It was nice to see those guys, nice to go up against those guys,” Avery Bradley said. “It was fun.” But strange? “No, not really,” Bradley said. “I thought it [would be], but it wasn’t.” . . . Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk missed his ninth straight game with a sprained right ankle. He is still considered day-to-day.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes.