Well, in a matter of speaking.
Pacers president and Celtics legend Larry Bird spoke with the media on Monday following his team’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the three-peat-hopeful Heat, and the long-time Boston resident oozed praise for C’s captain Rajon Rondo while looking ahead to Indiana’s future.
Weird, right? Well, not entirely. Bird was asked, in the wake of down season by point guard George Hill (who has three years left on his contract at $8 mil per), whether Rondo could be a potential trade target for the Pacers, or if there would be any interest in signing the play-maker in free agency if he hits the open market a year from now.
“He’s a very good player; he’s been great for a long time,” Bird said of the perennial All-Star point guard. “It’s always good to sit here and daydream and have a wish-list, but how are you going to pay these guys?
“I mean, if you know the Collective Bargaining, you know we can’t just go out – we’re not gonna have $20 million this year to spend,” continued Bird. “So, everything we’ve got to do has got to be through trades. But, I like Rondo. Everybody likes Rondo. I think he’s an excellent player. He’s one of the stars of our league.”
While the timing was a little odd, the comments weren’t. Back in March, Bird had the following to say of Rondo when the Celtics were in town.
“I appreciate the hell out of him. I don’t know him at all, but in the playoffs he’s showed that he’s one of the better players in our league. It’s unfortunate he got hurt, but he’s amazing to watch. To be able to defend and make plays for other guys, that’s big. He makes a lot of players that are not really good look pretty damn good. And that’s a key.”
Rumors have swirled for months over whether Danny Ainge will deal Rondo prior to him reaching unrestricted free agency next summer, but the Celts’ president of basketball operations has said at every opportunity that, while no one is untouchable, he views the guard as part of Boston’s future.
In turn, depending on which reports you’ve read, Rondo has been on the verge of heading to New York, Dallas, Houston, Sacramento, among other destinations.
I’ve long been effusive in my praise of Rondo and his ability to be part of the Celtics’ current rebuild. I don’t believe he should or will be traded any time soon, whether that’s this summer, on draft night, or prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. He and Ainge will come together in time and work out a new deal.
But, suppose I am wrong (after all, it wouldn’t be the first time), I’ll guarantee you this: Rondo won’t be leaving Boston for Indiana. No way, no chance.
So, while it’s nice to hear a well-respected Bird speak glowingly of the C’s top star, he’ll have to continue to daydream while determining the futures of the likes of Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner. And he’ll have to fulfill his wish-list elsewhere so Roy Hibbert and David West don’t opt out of their deals after next season.
For all the skeptics out there, though, who continue to claim Rondo is hated across the league and players have no interest in sharing the floor with him, hopefully this makes you feel a little better. There’s no posturing on Bird’s part; he has little to gain. Even if Ray Allen and coach Doc Rivers weren’t Rondo’s biggest fans, that doesn’t automatically put the pair in the majority.
Here’s hoping Rondo made at least one new friend over the weekend.
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