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Isaiah Thomas says Rajon Rondo hit him 3 times and brought up his Celtics tribute video

Paul Pierce’s No. 34 was retired at the TD Garden Sunday, but the pre-ceremony drama has persisted between two former Celtics guards.

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Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas were both ejected in the closing seconds of the first quarter during Wednesday night’s Lakers-Pelicans contest. The two players were issued technical fouls and had to be separated after a physical and verbal exchange escalated from the aggressive, on-the-body defense that began once Thomas entered the game with five minutes remaining in the quarter.

“For whatever reason, he’s an upset guy about me,” Thomas told reporters after the Pelicans’ 139-117 win. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s fine. He kept bringing the tribute up, when I was the one that shut the tribute down. I’m far past that. I’m on the Lakers trying to figure out how to help this team win.”

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Rondo repeatedly jawed at Thomas while the two were on court and closely marked his every move — even during stoppage of play. Thomas said the pair doesn’t have any history, so he’s not sure what caused their tiff.

“My team beat his team in the playoffs last year,” he said with a smile. “Maybe that is what’s wrong. I don’t know. Nothing should’ve made that escalate like it did. But he already had his agenda written down right when I checked into the game. It was obvious. He picked me up full court, trying to be physical. It was obvious.”

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Thomas claimed Rondo hit him in the face three times and reasoned his response was an act of self defense. Arguing his ejection was “uncalled for,” the 29-year-old doesn’t believe he should have been thrown out of the game over his actions.

“At some point, as a human, if no one is going to protect me, I got to protect myself,” he said. “That is when I spoke up and got upset. I hope the NBA figures something out with that, because it was wrong for me to be ejected.”

Although Rondo did not speak to the media after the game Wednesday, he had made his thoughts known in January.

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When Thomas’s Celtics tribute video was rescheduled for the same night as Pierce’s jersey retirement, Rondo questioned why two-time All-Star was even receiving a tribute video in the first place.

“What has he done?” he asked the Worcester Telegram & Gazette‘s Bill Doyle.

“This is the Boston Celtics,” Rondo continued. “This isn’t the Phoenix Suns. No disrespect to any other organization, but you don’t hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?”

Rondo played eight-plus seasons in Boston and was a member of the 2008 championship team, while Thomas played two-plus seasons and did not advance past the Eastern Conference Finals.

Though Thomas offered to reschedule his tribute video once more — after Pierce had made it clear he was not interested in sharing the spotlight — the controversy ended up becoming a moot point following the recent Cavaliers-Lakers trade. Thomas was dealt to Los Angeles, which meant he would not be a member of the Cavaliers on the day of Pierce’s jersey retirement — scheduled to take place after Boston and Cleveland’s regular-season finale.

Rondo, along with Kevin Garnett, returned to the Garden for Pierce’s ceremony.

Pierce, who now works as a basketball analyst for ESPN, had one thing to say during Wednesday’s halftime show: “Blood is thicker than water.”

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