It’s tough to imagine the NBA offseason getting any more goofy than it already has in it’s first two weeks.
From mass player opt-outs to the constantly spinning coaching carousel to idiot former players attempting ill-conceived, failed power plays within their organizations, there has been no shortage of entertainment despite zero game action. Last week’s draft, with all the spectacle and pageantry that comes with it every year, was the tamest, most non-controversial event of the summer thus far.
Starting tomorrow, we will get a first hand look at whether this year’s free agency period can live up to the madness of the past couple of weeks. The Celtics, to whatever extent they can, will be involved and it’s safe to assume that they will continue to pursue a trade for a name like Kevin Love or, if unable to satisfy the Minnesota Timberwolves’ demands, possibly someone like Houston’s Chandler Parsons, as the Rockets continue to try to clear the deck for a run at either LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or both.
Then there’s Rajon Rondo, not yet a free agent but perpetually ensconced in trade rumor after trade rumor, a cycle that fired up again when the Celts grabbed another point guard, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, with the sixth pick in the draft. It’s easy to look at their draft and declare the C’s in a full-on youth movement mode that will ultimately lead to Rondo’s exodus from Boston. And while it may sound like posturing to hear everyone in the Celtics brass, from Wyc Grousbeck to Danny Ainge to Brad Stevens, say that Rondo is perfectly capable of playing alongside Smart and that he’s not going anywhere (and really, what else could one possibly expect them to say?), that is certainly the most logical next step. The Celtics should not only keep Rondo in the here and now, they should do everything they can to keep him for the future as well.
Rondo, quirks and all, may not appear to be the kind of alpha dog around whom you build a team but really, how many of those types of guys are out there? His skill set makes him ideally cast alongside a pure scorer, someone like, say, Kevin Love. So bearing that in mind, and while considering what Rondo is capable of when healthy and with the right kind of sidekick(s), the Celts owe it to themselves to exhaust every single possibility in regard to adding that piece to put next to him. If that means moving on from Smart or fellow first rounder James Young before either of them has even played a minute in green, then so be it.
And while it goes without saying that the fans wouldn’t be interested, you can bet the over that no one in the organization wants a long, protracted rebuild that will result in more losing seasons like this past one. Stevens may have known that the Celts would need work when he signed his six-year contract right around this time last year but even though he has ample job security, it’s tough to imagine him wanting to stick around for too many more seasons like his first as an NBA coach, especially considering that he could probably pick pretty much any college opening he wants (even one of the most hallowed there is) and not only become the king of the castle immediately but never lose as many games for the rest of his life than he lost just last year. If the Celtics move on from Rondo and wind up revolving the rebuilding project around Smart, Young, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk, last year’s team will feel like the ’95-’96 Bulls by comparison and “Stevens Watch” will be at hand posthaste.
Rondo is the draw. Any NBA scorer with half a brain knows that Rondo’s game is all about keeping his teammates involved in the offense and getting them into the best possible position to do what they do best. And while some may have you believe that Rondo’s regular quest for assists makes him selfish (note to those folks: it doesn’t, if for no other reason than that it belies the dictionary definition of the word “assist” and thus using that as part of your argument as to why you hate Rondo is not only absurd, it seriously damages any credibility you may have), offensive-minded players love to play with guys who not only don’t care about taking away any of their shots but are all about trying to make them better.
Should the Celts fail in their quest to add an offensive weapon to play with Rondo, the equation changes somewhat. Rondo has said all the right things up to this point in regard to both his desire to stay in Boston and his impending free agency, but if no reinforcements come and the Celts wind up on the slow boat to Rebuild Island, his perspective could very well change. The current cast of characters isn’t likely to net the Celts many more wins than the 24 they managed last season, even if they are able to add a piece or two with their mid-level and trade exceptions. And while Rondo at full strength as opposed to working his way back from a serious knee injury will help from Day 1, there simply isn’t enough around him on the roster as presently constituted for him to make too much of a difference. The Celtics will have to sell him hard on staying and that’s provided they don’t feel like it’s in their best interest to use him as an avenue to add to their pile of future assets.
If it shakes out as such, that kind of sell job is exactly what the Celtics need to do. Dynamic, star point guards more concerned with setting up their teammates than getting their own don’t come around too often these days. The next generation of contending Celtics teams will require a variety of integral parts and Rondo should be right at the top of the list.