|Brad Stevens, Sisyphus and a Celtics season in flux||02.12.15 at 1:51 am ET|
It’s been exactly one month since the Celtics finalized the Jeff Green trade — completing a series of deals that also sent Rajon Rondo packing — and yet they’re playing their best basketball of the season. After losing three straight immediately following their leading scorer’s departure, the C’s have won seven of their last 12 games to enter the All-Star break trailing the Hornets and Heat by only one loss for the Eastern Conference’s final two postseason spots.
Despite a 20-31 record, the Celtics are in the playoff conversation. Seriously.
“It’s always been a conversation, since Day 1,” said Marcus Thornton, whose 14 points helped ground the Hawks on Wednesday night. “I believe we can make it, and I believe we can make noise, too, so it’s on us to make that happen.”
Except, some of the current C’s weren’t here when the season began — namely rotation players Jae Crowder and Tayshaun Prince — and not all of them are expected to be around when the team reconvenes for the second half in Sacramento some 24 hours after the league’s Feb. 19 trade deadline.
So, Jared Sullinger can decry all he wants, “It’s the All-Star break; that’s the last thing on our mind,” but the harsh reality is this team that appears to be just hitting its stride could look completely different in a week.
“I’m going to use that time to take off and kind of forget about basketball a little bit,” Thornton said when asked about an eight-day vacation leading up to the trade deadline, “but wherever I’m at, I’m ready to go.”
|Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens explain Jeff Green trade, uncertain future||01.13.15 at 1:37 am ET|
When Rajon Rondo was shipped out of town just over three weeks ago, Danny Ainge used a key word to describe why — uncertainty. It also seemed to remain the reason Ainge felt the need to ship Jeff Green to Memphis as well.
“I just felt like [it was] a timeline thing,” Ainge said prior to Monday’s home win over the Pelicans. “The players that we had, the uncertainty of the future and free agency, and [I] felt like we were getting good value in return based on this contract situation.”
The trade doesn’t make this current season any easier on coach Brad Stevens, but the coach understands it’s a process geared towards the future.
“Losing [Green] three weeks after losing your multiple-time All-Star point guard, there’s going to be challenges that come with that,” Stevens said. “That’s why you prepare everyone to play and that’s why everybody’s got this talk about next man up.”
Last year everything was very new to Stevens, especially the trade deadline. Now in his second season in the NBA, Stevens is learning to adapt to what to expect during the rebuild.
“This is about the time last year where we had some – at the time for that team we had some pretty significant moves — with Jordan [Crawford] being traded and Courtney [Lee] being traded,” Stevens reflected. “So there’s a little bit of being able to look back and learn from that. I think I learned a lot from the Rondo trade, just as far as not only losing a really good player, but also trying to bring new guys in and get them up to speed as quickly as possible, but also recognizing that you don’t have to rebuild Rome in a day.”
|Report: Brandan Wright has been told he will be traded||01.09.15 at 12:05 pm ET|
On Dec 18 Brandan Wright was acquired by the Celtics as part of the deal that shipped Rajon Rondo to Dallas. That date was no accident — it leaves enough time for Boston to trade the players it received in the deal after 60 days, just before the Feb 19 deadline.
CSN Washington is reporting that Brandan Wright has already been told by Danny Ainge “that he’s on the block and should expect to be on another team.” Obviously, Wright is a very attractive piece to other teams, so the idea of him being traded again this season isn’t far-fetched. It is, however, odd that Ainge would already tell Wright that he should expect to be gone.
Wright has taken on a much lesser role since arriving in Boston, somewhat odd considering how big of a role he played for the Mavericks — a much better team than the Celtics. But with so many players of similar talent levels in Boston, as well as young projects to develop, Wright has seen a dip in his minutes, including a DNP Wednesday in Brooklyn.
Wright is shooting 72.4 percent from the field so far this season, and his 24.27 PER ranks 10th in the league as of Friday morning. Ainge won’t be able to command two first-rounders like the desperate Cavs gave up to Denver for Timofey Mozgov, but Wright certainly has some value on the trade market. If this report it true, we will find out exactly what Wright’s value is on the day of the trade deadline.
|Rajon Rondo is introduced as a visitor back in Boston||01.02.15 at 7:51 pm ET|
The banner around the TD Garden video board read “Thank You Rondo!” And with that, a three-minute tribute to the former Celtics superstar point guard concluded Friday night. The Celtics showed their appreciation for Rajon Rondo, their most recent captain, in a stirring three-minute tribute featuring highlights of his eight-plus seasons in Boston, marking his return for the first time since the December trade that sent him out of town.
At the end of the tribute produced by the Celtics, Rondo acknowledged the standing ovation from the fans, and then went over to the Celtics bench, giving a hug to longtime trainer Ed Lacerte and others. Before the game, he had a hug with Celtics TV announcer Mike Gorman.
Rondo capped a 15-point first quarter with his third three-pointer in as many tries with 0.2 seconds remaining. Rondo connected on all six shots as the Mavericks raced out to a 31-17 lead.
Rondo cooled off a bit in the second quarter, connecting on 1-of-4 shots and finishing the half with 18 points, three rebounds and one assist as the Mavericks led, 59-46.
Rondo scored the first 10 points of the game for Dallas, including a pair of 3-pointers on his first two attempts from long distance.
|Danny Ainge on why he traded Rajon Rondo||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.”
|Right move to trade Rajon Rondo, but Celtics waited too long||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?
|Celtics trade Rajon Rondo to Mavericks||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.
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