I don’t know about the bulk of all Celtics fans out there, but I’m crushed about the Kevin Love news.
In case you haven’t heard, Love, who got C’s fans hearts all aflutter during his spring weekend in Boston, is officially off the market and will be traded from Minnesota to Cleveland to play with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as soon as NBA bylaws allow it to become reality. As dim as the hopes of Danny Ainge enticing T’Wolves man-in-charge Flip Saunders to take on a package of all the Celts assets in exchange for Love appeared to be, I wanted it to happen so badly that I refused to let it go.
And… I guess it’s time to let it go. Sigh.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and we’re completely certain that the C’s won’t get Love, we can move on to another issue raised by colleague Adam Kaufman yesterday. Kaufman believes that with all hope of Love coming to Boston 100 percent dashed, it’s time for the Celts to throw up their hands and trade Rajon Rondo once and for all.
Kaufman is not enrolled in the Jeff Goodman school of Rondo hate, where everyone irrationally despises Rondo for no viable reason and takes every chance they can to espouse that view publicly while clamoring for the Celts to trade him for a handful of mesh practice jerseys and a few rolls of athletic tape. He loves Rondo and doesn’t want to see him leave Boston, but feels that the Celts are now further away from contending than at any point in the past two years with Love off the market and that necessitates a trade.
I can see his point. Rondo is set to become a free agent after the upcoming season and with the Celtics sure to be stuck in a similar realm as their 25-win finish in 2013-2014, it’s tough to imagine the point guard willingly choosing to stay, even if the Celts can offer him more money than any other NBA team to do so.
But the Celtics need to keep him. They shouldn’t trade him. Not now, not in February at the trading deadline when he’ll have infinitely more value than he has right this minute, not ever. They should start contract talks with Rondo today and do everything in their power to re-sign him and keep him a Celtic for the remainder of his NBA life.
On a team with no real foundation and a bunch of guys who overlap each other on the depth chart, Rondo is the rock. He’s been here eight years. He’s won a championship here. He understands and respects the culture and the rich history of the organization while completely comprehending his place in it. He says at every chance he gets that he wants to remain here and see the current rebuild through to its end and a potential 18th banner in the TD Garden rafters. He’s the guy around whom the rebuild should happen.
Rondo makes guys better. He doesn’t care about scoring or how many shots he gets, he only cares about getting his teammates the best possible looks and easiest opportunities to score. He’s a draw. Should Ainge be able to package any of the Celtics assets for the next big name who comes down the pike now that Love is no longer available, Rondo stands as the ideal complement. If that mystery guy averages 18 points per game, playing alongside Rondo will bump that number up to 21 or 22. Rondo’s game pretty much guarantees it.
This next season will likely be another lean one in the winning department, but the Celtics still have more draft picks over the next handful of years to include in a potential deal than any other NBA team. And even though rookie Marcus Smart has turned plenty of heads thus far since the Celts drafted him in June, there’s no way of knowing what kind of player or point guard he’ll wind up being once the lights go on. There are no such concerns when it comes to Rondo. If he would have been an ideal running mate for Love, he will be the same for another star that the Celts can trade for down the road with some of those picks along with players like Jared Sulinger, Kelly Olynyk, and possibly even Smart.
The Celtics are mired in a web of uncertainty but Rondo is the only sure thing. With a roster full of question marks, why would you want to move your only real answer? And if you did, what are you even going to get for him? Another shooting guard/small forward from Sacramento in Ben McLemore? A clear downgrade from Detroit in Brandon Jennings? Thanks, but definitely no thanks.
Rondo needs to stay. The Celtics must do everything they can to make that happen. The next contending Celtics team may now be a little further away. But that doesn’t mean that Rajon Rondo can’t still be its leader.