The Celtics rumor mill churned out a blockbuster this morning, though to hear Danny Ainge tell it, any whispered deal is unlikely to become reality.
Unidentified league sources told Yahoo Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Celtics offered guard Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to the Pistons in exchange for a package that would include forward Tayshaun Price, and guards Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey. The sources said the Pistons immediately rejected the potential trade.
When asked about the rumor this morning during a press conference at the team’s facility in Waltham, Ainge did not offer a denial of the specific report, but strongly indicated he does not expect to deal Rondo, the remarkably talented but erratic 23-year-old point guard.
“We love Rajon and I’m not going to comment on which rumors are true or not true,” said Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations. “We love this kid and I don’t anticipate trading anyone from our core.”
According to Wojnarowski, Ainge and Detroit general manager Joe Dumars never discussed the deal. Instead, Ainge delegated making the proposal to another Celtics executive over the weekend. When Detroit immediately rejected the proposal, there was no reason for Ainge and Dumars to discuss the deal.
While Ainge did not deny that Rondo’s name comes up in trade conversations — “We’ve had discussions, but there’s discussions every day,” he said — he suggested it would be difficult to get a player in return who could help the Celtics win immediately.
“If you look at a trade rumor and if you think it makes us a better team and helps us to win a championship this year, that’s the first criteria that any trade rumor has to pass — that it has to help us win the championship this year,” he said.
As Wojnarowski noted in the Yahoo report, it is not unusual for a GM to have someone else in the front office float a trade on his behalf, just to provide some level of deniability if a rumor becomes public. To a degree, that’s the approach Ainge took today.
“We’re certainly not doing anything this year to get a draft pick that’s a developmental project that is going to prevent us winning a championship this year,” Ainge said. “I’ve had many conversations. But a rumor that said lower-level executives are talking about a trade rumor pretty much means it doesn’t really have any merit or any value, if it’s not being discussed at the top.”
Ainge acknowledged that no player is untradable, but said the Celtics will most likely retain all of their core players while looking to add a veteran or two to the bench. He said he sees no reason to shake up a team already built to make a run at a championship.
“We’ve won 128 games in the last two years,” Ainge said. “This year, we won 62 and had major injuries. We’re a championship contender, for sure, in the last few years and we feel like we’re going to be better this year — we’ll have a better team on the court.”
There has been speculation that the confident Rondo’s attitude has rubbed some within the Celtics organization the wrong way. Ainge said that is far from the case.
“That stuff is so false,” Ainge said of Rondo, who averaged 11.9 points, 8.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the regular season, and had three triple-doubles in the Celtics’ playoff run this season.
As for Allen, the six-time All-Star shooting guard has been mentioned in trade talks even more frequently than Rondo this summer. Allen, who will soon turn 34, has an expiring contract of nearly $20 million, for next season, which is appealing to teams looking to clear cap space for the monster free-agent class of 2010.
The contracts of both Rondo ($3.7 million) and Allen ($19.7 million) expire after next season.
Stuckey ($1.8 million) is signed through 2010 with a $2.7 million team option for 2011, Prince’s deal (average of $10.7 million per season) expires at the end of the 2011 season, and Hamilton is under contract through 2012 (at an average of about $11.3 million per season).
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