Rondo vs. Paul: Now it's personal

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For the first time since trade rumors swirled in December, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo meet Monday.LOS ANGELES -- Back in November of 2009, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and then-New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul got into an on-court dust-up that forced a referee to separate the two players, escalating an already budding rivalry between the two young point guards.

After the game, Kendrick Perkins, no stranger to the double-technical dance, said, "Sometimes you get into a little noise, talking, but it ain't nothing serious, I don't think. It's nothing personal."

Well, now it is personal.

Coming out of the lockout in December, the Celtics made a full-court press to pry Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, willing to part with Rondo in order to accomplish that. When Boston failed in its quest (and Paul eventually was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers), Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stressed to Rondo how it was a compliment for his name to be mentioned in trade talks with one of the league's elite players and has since made sure to note how Rondo is Boston's best player.

But it's no secret what fuels Rondo. He often takes his play to another level on big stages against big opponents (just ask Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks after the 18-point, 17-rebound, 20-assist effort Rondo produced earlier this month). On Monday night, Rondo and Paul meet for the first time since the trade talks in a nationally televised battle (10:30 p.m., ESPN) and you can't help but wonder how Rondo will respond.

Before Sunday's tilt with the Lakers, we spotlighted Rondo's affinity for the national spotlight. The question for Monday is simply whether Rondo can prevent getting too hyped going against Paul.

Here's a game-by-game glance at how Rondo has fared as a starter in head-to-head matchups with Paul:

Overall, in eight career starts against the Hornets (one game without Paul), Rondo is averaging 11.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds over 33.4 minutes per game. His offensive game seems to pick up a bit as he's shot 50 percent (39 of 78) in that span. As for Paul against Boston, in 11 career matchups, he's averaging 16.3 points, 8.9 assists, and 5 rebounds over 35.3 minutes per game.

One thing seems certain: Monday's game won't lack for intrigue. Simply watching the Rondo-Paul matchup should be excellent theatre.