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Dan Shaughnessy

Now is not the time

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 26, 2009
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As far as we know, Rajon Rondo is still a member of the Boston Celtics. The draft has come and gone and Boston did not trade its starry point guard to Detroit, Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix, Tri-Cities, or Real Madrid.

It’s been a wild couple of days on the Rondo Watch and Celtics boss Danny Ainge would like to make a couple of things perfectly clear:

“People are trying to make Rondo into a Manny situation,’’ Ainge said as he prepared for last night’s draft (a.k.a. silent night). “All I said was that he needs to work on his leadership skills, he can’t be late for a playoff game, and he needs to mature as far as competing on a consistent basis. I’d said all that before.

“All those trade rumors are just a bunch of bull. I’m not trading Rondo.’’

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Ainge would never trade his flossy point guard. Danny can always go Rick Pitino on us and say, “That’s how I felt at the time.’’ But logic says the window is closing on the Celtics’ opportunity for banner No. 18. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are not getting younger. Boston’s best shot for a championship is next year. That means this is no time to be trading your 23-year-old point guard who almost averaged a triple-double throughout the playoffs.

Oh, and did I mention that team in Cleveland? The Cavaliers just got a lot better. LA folk are already drooling over the prospect of a Shaq-Kobe Finals. It will be a big theme from now until next June.

That is one more reason this is no time for the Celtics to trade Rajon Rondo - not even if he’s studying for his Diva Degree at the International School of Pedro Martínez.

So, why would Danny put out the negative vibe?

“I didn’t know that I was ripping him,’’ said Ainge. “Like being late is acceptable? And that Orlando was allowed to double team our shooters? Stan Van Gundy said that a hundred times. People had already read that. I didn’t say anything people didn’t already know.

“He needs improvement. I don’t think it’s a big deal. He’s a point guard who needs to work on his leadership skills and be more consistent.’’

Rondo’s agent, Bill Duffy, fought back in an interview with the Globe’s Marc J. Spears, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that about one of your top players.’’

Wouldn’t this be a great world if Red Auerbach was around to comment on Rondo or his agent?

Ainge knows a little bit about criticism. Bill Fitch regularly ripped into Ainge when Danny was a fresh-faced shooting guard out of Brigham Young. Meanwhile, Larry Bird took on the role of big brother and constantly teased Ainge.

“I don’t think [Ainge] would like it if [Celtics managing partner] Wyc [Grousbeck] was talking about him in public,’’ said Duffy.

Actually, Danny wouldn’t care. With the possible exceptions of former Boston College athletic director Chet Gladchuk and late agent Bob Woolf, Ainge is less sensitive to criticism than just about anybody who’s ever been on the Boston sports scene. No rabbit ears for Danny. You can say what you want about him. It will not change him from doing what he is going to do. He will not get into the face of his critics and say, “I told you so,’’ when his decisions prove to be correct.

The greatest draft day of them all yielded the Celtics Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, and K.C. Jones in 1956. But Red had a few clunkers, too. Anybody remember Clarence Glover? Michael Young? How about Acie Earl and Joseph Forte?

Remember how we hooted on Ainge two years ago on draft night? He traded the No. 5 pick and got an aging guard who was coming off double ankle surgery. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. One championship later, it looks pretty good. It turned out to be Ray Allen and Glen Davis for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, and Jeff Green.

We know that Danny is a fine judge of talent. He’s gotten a lot of mileage from late picks and second-rounders. We also know the Celtics are ever mindful of competition within the conference, free agents on the horizon, and monies that someday will be needed to keep young stars Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Big Baby Davis. But this regime is not building for the future. That’s why they had to settle for Lester Hudson with the 58th pick.

“We want to win now,’’ said Ainge. “We also want to win with Rajon Rondo.’’

Even if they sometimes have to put up with Rajon being Rajon.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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