An NBA source said the Celtics were never serious competitors for Memphis swingman Rudy Gay, who was traded in a three-team deal to the Raptors Wednesday.
Boston was rumored to be discussing sending franchise cornerstone Paul Pierce to Memphis in exchange for Gay, whom the Grizzlies had been looking to trade for weeks. According to the source, the Celtics didn’t feel Gay was worthy of franchise-player status, or sacrificing Pierce, who has one more year on his contract that is only partially guaranteed.
Gay is averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds and has $37 million remaining on his contract for the next two years.
Gay was sent to the Raptors for Ed Davis, while Toronto shipped Jose Calderon to the Pistons, who sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis.
The Celtics also were believed to be interested in Calderon, but his $10 million expiring contract made it a difficult fit unless the Raptors took on two contracts. The source said that after the recent season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo the Celtics plan to give their core guards a couple of weeks to move on without him.
With Leandro Barbosa, who scored 5 points in 10 minutes during the first half of Wednesday night’s 99-81 win over the Kings at TD Garden, potentially getting more minutes along with Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley, the Celtics believe they can be competitive without Rondo.
Lee and Bradley will be the starters with Terry and Barbosa coming off the bench.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the club will not make any sudden moves.
Terry still hopeful
Terry said the Celtics’ goal of winning a championship has not changed, despite the absence of Rondo because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Terry’s play has been uneven this season but he said the team’s current group of guards can compensate for Rondo’s absence.
“The role doesn’t change,” Terry said. “No question, the goal is to win a championship. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been a point guard on a young team that went to the Finals in [2005-06]. I still think we’ve got just as good of a chance as anybody and when we’re playing the right way, moving the ball, and playing defensively like we’re capable of, we’re tough to beat.”
The Celtics notched their two most significant wins of the month – against the Knicks and Heat – without Rondo.
“That’s a great example of showing you that we have the talent to compete and compete at a high level,” Terry said. “We miss him, but he’s not coming back and that’s a reality. So we put that in the back of our mind now and go forward.”
Terry said the team will embrace Rondo, who suffered the first major injury of his career.
“You just want to at this point keep his spirits up, let him know he’s still part of the team and not by [himself],” he said.
Sullinger not picked
Jared Sullinger left with 7:52 left in the first quarter with what the team called back spasms. He tried to return in the second quarter but was ruled out. Sullinger slipped in the June draft because of back issues, but he hadn’t had any problems until Wednesday.
“I know [head trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] said something a week or two ago that it’s been bothering him, and I think this will be what will happen,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’ll have these episodes and we’ve got to get him through it. Hopefully he doesn’t miss games with them, but if he does he does. And then get it right and come back. But I’m not sure if it was before the game or not.”
The NBA released the roster for the Rising Stars Challenge, featuring the league’s top first- and second-year players, and Sullinger was not on it. NBA all-time greats Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will select nine players each from the list for the Feb. 15 game at All-Star Weekend in Houston.
Sullinger, who has been one of the league’s more impressive rookies in recent weeks, was passed up in favor of Cleveland big man Tyler Zeller and Detroit center Andre Drummond.
Sullinger entered Wednesday night’s game averaging 7.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in January.
“Really?” center Kevin Garnett said when informed of the decision. “It doesn’t surprise me. This league has an agenda and Jared’s not in that agenda. I hope it creates a monster within him. I hope it does [nothing] but encourage him.”
No Dooling return
Keyon Dooling tweeted Wednesday that he doesn’t plan on returning to the Celtics after telling the Globe Sunday that he would consider a comeback. Dooling, who retired over the summer after some personal issues, is the Celtics’ player development director.
“Hey everyone thank you for all the love and support that you guys give me daily,” he tweeted. “FYI I won’t be returning this season.”
Treatment for Melo
Fab Melo is with the club, but to receive treatment for a quadriceps injury . . . Sacramento swingman John Salmons missed the game with an illness . . . Barbosa was assessed a flagrant 1 foul in the fourth quarter after a hard hit on Tyreke Evans driving to the basket . . . Because the Celtics have only 13 players on their roster, Rondo was on the active list despite his injury.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.