|12.20.14 at 1:55 am ET|
Here’s the first question Danny Ainge was asked in his press conference prior to Friday’s game: “Why did you trade Rajon Rondo?”
Ainge’s answer was brief, “There was a definite uncertainty into what may happen this summer. So that was a big factor.”
That’s all Ainge initially said on trading away his largest asset for what will presumably be a late first-round pick in 2016 and a second-rounder in that same draft, as well as a few misfit parts. Those few words tell us everything we need to know, though.
Ainge believed Rondo was going to bolt in free agency and didn’t want to lose him for nothing, so he traded him. It was the right move, plain and simple.
However, uncertainty remained a key word.
“We like the players that we got in the trade,” Ainge expanded. “But, listen, I think that with [Rondo’s] impending free agency and uncertainty of what may happen this summer, I think that gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal.”
Ainge was later asked how long these uncertainties had existed regarding Rondo’s future in Boston.
“Oh, I think that there’s been uncertainty for a while,” Ainge said. “You know, as to what kind of team we’d be able to put together. We tried this summer to get some significant players in, unsuccessfully, and there’s a price that we won’t go [to], either. [A price] that we won’t pay for any player in order to make that happen this past summer.
“At the same time, there’s been uncertainty as to what [Rondo’s] future would be, and there’s been uncertainty as to how he would return and how he’d come back and play [after tearing his ACL]. Yeah, I think he’s understood that, and I’ve understood that and we’ve talked about it.”
|12.19.14 at 10:44 pm ET|
While Rondo’s departure generated a lot of buzz pregame, the Celtics didn’t allow his absence to affect their play on the court. Separating the two worlds was easy, something Jeff Green predicted before the game.
“At the end of the day, you got to still go and play basketball,” Green said. “Doing something that we love — its not that hard to go out there and play hard and give it all you got.”
That’s exactly what the Celtics did. Despite the score being relatively close for the first three quarters, the Celtics controlled the game for the entire night and were able to pull away in fourth. The Timberwolves got 26 points from Shabazz Muhammad and 19 from Chase Budinger, but their efforts were no match for the team effort put forth by Boston.
Without Rondo, the Celtics had 29 assists, tying their fourth-highest total this season. The crisp ball movement led to a balanced attack in which six different players scored in double figures.
If there were a standout individual performance, it would have to be Kelly Olynyk. Coming off the bench, Olnynk had an impressive first half, scoring 14 points in 14 minutes. On the heels of a career-high performance Monday with 30 points in a win over Philly, he attacked the rim with ease and showed little hesitation when given a open looks beyond the arc. He finished with a team-high 21 points.
Evan Turner started in place of Rondo and, along with Phil Pressey and Marcus Smart, did a serviceable job running the offense. The three-headed point guard trio only had six turnovers while combining for 24 points and 10 assists.
First overall pick and presumptive Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins struggled to find any sort of rhythm, finishing with only five points on 2-of-10 shooting. “Maple Jordan” did have a couple of nice blocks but otherwise was a non-factor.
|12.19.14 at 4:33 pm ET|
Danny Ainge finally decided it was time to send the last standing piece of his 2008 championship roster on its way. It was the right move, there’s no doubt about it. But couldn’t it have been done sooner?
Ainge’s Plan A was no secret: Find a star to place next to Rajon Rondo. This plan began on June 27, 2013 — the day the Celtics agreed in principle to send Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. Despite Ainge aggressively searching for that star, it just wasn’t there. When no deal presented itself at last season’s trade deadline, Boston patiently waited for summer to arrive.
By June, it looked like the Celtics might be rewarded. Kevin Love did some notable flirting with Boston, and even chatted with Rondo himself at Fenway Park. Ainge went all-out to bring Love to Boston, and for a while it looked like he could offer Minnesota the best package to pry Love away. As we now know, one thing led to another and Minnesota got an offer it couldn’t decline. It was almost an unthinkable offer in which the Timberwolves received back-to-back No. 1 overall picks (Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett) for their star. In ways it was bad luck for the Celtics, but Plan A failed the second Love went to Cleveland.
Ainge kept looking for trades but just never found one. Not only was a deal to add a star not out there at the time, there were no foreseeable trades on the horizon for the upcoming (now current) season. Plan B, it’s now clear, was to trade Rondo. Which begs the question: Why not trade Rondo as soon as Plan A failed?
This is the part I don’t understand. Was Rondo really expected to succeed on the team he was given to lead this season? He’s not that type of player. In years past, debates have gone as far as to question which point guard you would rather have with players like Rondo against the likes of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. Those debates are nowhere to be found today. Most of that is to blame on Rondo’s ACL tear suffered in January 2013. But Rondo has never been the same type of player as other point guards in the league.
Rondo’s uniqueness lies in the fact that his value is controlled by the talent of his teammates — something we can’t attribute to any other player. Rondo will thrive in Dallas, mostly because he will be playing with his best surrounding cast since at least 2010. He couldn’t succeed in Boston because the talent was not there, and for that reason Boston should have moved Rondo as soon as it realized it couldn’t add the necessary stars that its current star required.
Knowing now what Ainge’s floor was, in terms of a deal he would accept for Rondo, wouldn’t he have taken a first-round pick in the 15-25 range of this past June’s draft? Yes, Love still was an option at the time, but the idea of him coming to Boston was fading. Even after the draft, a team like the Rockets had long been rumored to be interested in Rondo. Just a day prior the draft, Houston acquired New Orleans’ 2015 first-round pick in a deal for Omer Asik. That pick figures to be higher than Dallas’ will be in 2016, why not go for that? Obviously, Houston didn’t want to make a deal using that pick now. But what about five or six months ago?
Hindsight is 20/20, but I (like many) was shocked by the low return on Rondo. Boston recieved Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and conditional first- and second-round draft picks. But Rondo had to go — Kendrick Perkins has even revealed to Yahoo! Sports that Rondo wanted out of Boston.
In the end, Ainge made the right move for the franchise. Why he waited so long I may never understand, but, in fairness, we still don’t know what the final return on Rondo will be. Wright is a nice player with one of the highest efficiency ratings in the league. Could Wright, Nelson and/or Crowder fetch another draft pick before the trade deadline? Ainge purposely got this deal done more than 60 days before the deadline so that trading players he got in return this season remains an option.
Ainge is a smart guy. He often makes gutsy and questionable moves. One of them was taking a gangly point guard who couldn’t shoot with the No. 21 pick 8 1/2 years ago. Who’s to say he won’t experience that success again with the pick he just got from Dallas?
|12.19.14 at 11:34 am ET|
ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Goodman joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Rajon Rondo trade to the Mavericks and the state of the Celtics. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The C’s have faced some early criticism for the deal, with critics saying the return for Rondo was not all that great. Goodman said the Celtics got a decent value back in the trade.
“You got a first-round pick, you got a good, young player in Brandan Wright, who I think has a chance to be a 14 [points] and seven [rebounds] guy if he plays 20, 30 minutes a game,” Goodman said. “But people forget also, they’re saying, ‘Well, you should’ve traded him early, you should’ve traded him earlier.’ He did get hurt, it’s not like his trade value was so high. He was out, he didn’t play a full season. Last year when he came back he was playing every other game. You really didn’t have the chance to trade him until this year when you tried to boost his trade value as high as you possibly could.”
Rondo adds to a team that already has Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons. Goodman said the point guard is a much better fit for Dallas.
“I’m not a Rondo guy for this franchise, meaning the Celtics, once [Kevin Garnett], Ray Allen and Paul Pierce left,” Goodman said. “I think in Dallas, in a fairly strong locker room, Rick Carlise’s gotten a little bit easier to deal with than he was back in the day. But you’ve got Dirk. You’ve got some veterans there, Tyson Chandler, who I think can handle him. And all he’s got to be is that third, fourth, even fifth guy, option on the floor. He can’t be your first, second option. He can’t be your leader. And he was forced to kind of be both in Boston. And Dallas is the ideal fit for Rondo to succeed.”
The hosts wondered if Rondo had any issues with coach Brad Stevens or the front office that might have led to the trade. Goodman said it came down to wins and losses for Rondo.
“Brad Stevens is the easiest guy to deal with you’ll ever meet in your life. If you can’t get along with Brad Stevens, you have so many issues,” Goodman said. “Did I hear that Brad loved him? No. But he dealt with him. Rondo bought in as much as Rondo could possibly buy in, partially because Rondo knew the endgame here. If he didn’t buy in, he was going to be here long term, and he wanted to go somewhere he could win because he was used to it. He didn’t want to be here. Yeah, $20 million would’ve been nice to stay here. But I think for Rondo, he’s a different dude, he just beats to a different tune. I think a lot guys say it, the money isn’t as important, I think Rondo would’ve been one of those guys that would’ve taken less money to go elsewhere to win than to stay in Boston and keep losing games.”
|12.19.14 at 9:03 am ET|
Rajon Rondo, who was singing Christmas carols with his Celtics teammates at Boston Children’s Hospital on the evening he was traded to the Mavericks, expressed heartfelt gratitude for his time in the city in a series of tweets.
“My time in Boston has meant so much,” he wrote. “I’ve grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched. My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best. I’ve experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans and city.
“The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk [Nowitzki], Monta [Ellis], Tyson [Chandler] and the young talent of Chandler [Parsons] is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.”
|12.18.14 at 6:17 pm ET|
Trade rumors crept up on Wednesday before ESPN.com’s Marc Stein originally reported what has since become official: Rondo has been shipped to Dallas along with rookie Canadian forward Dwight Powell for a package that leaves many questioning if Boston got enough.
“We would like to thank Rajon for everything that he has done for the Celtics organization and the success we have experienced during his tenure with us,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement.
“We would not have won Banner 17 without Rajon and will always consider him one of our most valuable Celtics, both on the court and in the community working with kids,” added Celtics managing partners Wyc Grousbeck, Irv Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca and Robert Epstein. “We will always cherish the time he was here.”
The deal, which has since been announced on the Mavericks’ website, landed Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and two draft picks in return — Dallas’ 2015 first-round selection and 2016 second-rounder. The move also forced Boston to release second-year Brazilian center Vitor Faverani.
Rondo took to Twitter just after midnight and sent out multiple tweets. Here’s Rondo’s message in full:
My time in Boston has meant so much. I’ve grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched. My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best. I’ve experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans and city. The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk, Monta, Tyson and the young talent of Chandler is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.
Rondo averaged 10.8 assists, 8.3 points, 7.5 rebounds in 22 games this season with the Celtics.
|12.18.14 at 1:21 pm ET|
Following the Celtics‘ victory over the Magic on Wednesday night, Rajon Rondo spoke about the trade rumors surrounding him. Essentially, Rondo maintained the stance that he does not want to be traded, but that the rumors will continue to be part of life in the NBA.
“Obviously, we experienced it all the way through last year,” Stevens said. “From my standpoint, the most challenging thing of it is, number one is just coaching the group and making sure that everybody knows we’re focused on playing Minnesota [on Friday]. We’re focused on doing what we need to do to get everybody playing at the best level that they can.
“I think that a lot of these guys that are older have probably dealt with the talk throughout their years in the league, but I don’t know that it’s ever not unsettling. [My] door is open if anybody wants to talk about it and those type of things. I don’t talk a ton to Danny [Ainge] and his staff, they only say if there’s really something that I need to know. It’s one of those things you just try to do your job the best you can through all circumstances.”
So does Stevens expect to be a part of any trade discussions?
“My job is pretty well defined,” Stevens said. “And that is to coach, and to get our team ready to play and to play as well as we can. My expectations aren’t very big. I just want to be in the loop as [Ainge and his staff] deem appropriate. They’re good at their jobs and I’m hired to coach.”
Stevens went on to speak very highly of Rondo when asked how he thought his point guard was playing this season, but that’s to be expected whether Rondo remains the captain of the Celtics, or if the final rebuilding move is to ship him out.
We already know it isn’t Stevens’ call as to the future of Rondo, but the coach seems very set on sticking to what is asked of him and keeping faith in Ainge’s ability to build winning teams. Many of the trade rumors that have circulated so far don’t seem to accomplish that for the Celtics, so expect the rumors to drag on.
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