DEDHAM – The 2014-15 NBA season hasn’t even started, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is already tired of the Rajon Rondo trade questions.
“You are seriously asking me that again?” Ainge said with disdain after a reporter inquired about Rondo’s future with the team. “We expect Rajon to be in Boston – for the long term. Does that need to be asked anymore by anybody ever again?”
Unfortunately for Ainge, the answer is yes. With the Celtics in the midst of what could be a lengthy rebuild and unrestricted free agency looming for Rondo next summer, the questions will continue to pop up about the point guard’s status with the team in the coming months.
Without addressing any of them directly, Ainge downplayed the rumors that surfaced earlier this summer suggesting Rondo may want out of town, moments before teeing off at the Celtics Shamrock Foundation golf tournament in Dedham.
“I think there’s been a lot of people that just have flat-out made stuff up, and it’s become hot topics. Very credible people have made things up and that even makes it worse,” Ainge said. “So yeah, I think that there’s probably a lot of people out there who still have some sort of belief that there is some truth in the rumors that go on out there. But I can’t say more emphatically, my hope is that we can have a long-term relationship.
“Players like Rondo are hard to find. Here we are trying to make big deals, and it’s hard to make big deals…it’s hard to get free agents without players with some cache. And Rondo is our best player, simply.”
With Rondo receiving a clean bill of health for the first time in nearly two years, Ainge is also excited about the improvements the point guard has made to his game this offseason.
“I expect the best year of his career,” Ainge stated. He’s worked really hard this summer and I think Rondo’s going to have the best year of his life. That’s what I expect.
“I think he’s a year removed from the injury, he’s growing all the time, he’s improving and maturing as a leader. He’s just getting better. He’s in the prime of his career right now. I think what he went through last year was frustrating for him and I think drove him to have a good hard working summer. I don’t think it’s the contract at all [that is motivating him]. I think it’s who he is.”
While the Celtics may want to re-sign Rondo, the bigger issue for the team could be whether the veteran wants to remain in Boston for the long haul if the team does not make progress in their rebuild during the upcoming year. That’s a scenario Ainge said will be addressed between the two sides.
“I think that that’s a question that we’ll probably have to address at least halfway through the season, if not the end of the season,” Ainge said. “But right now Rondo has indicated to me that he wants to stay in Boston. He loves it here. He knows who his teammates are and he loves his teammates. He loves playing with Jeff [Green] and Avery [Bradley] and [Jared Sullinger]. I think he spent a lot of time with Brad [Stevens] this summer and talked a lot about basketball. Brad was individually out on the court and they worked really hard together. I think that mutual respect is growing by the day and I just think that he’s in a really good place.”