Former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers made his second return visit to TD Garden on Sunday since joining the Los Angeles Clippers. Before his current team extended its winning streak to seven games by laying a thorough beatdown on his former one, Rivers reflected on a busy, rebuilding season in Boston.
While the timing of the Celtics’ December trade that shipped point guard Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks took some observers by surprise, Rivers was not one of them.
“I didn’t know [if Rondo was going to be part of Boston’s future],” Rivers said when asked about the trade. “I think at the end of the day, it was more of a Rajon decision, in my opinion…it was more his decision than Danny’s and the Celtics’ staff.
Rivers continued: “I just think you get a feel for whether [Rondo] wanted to play it out [in Boston] or not, and when you’re rebuilding you can’t take that gamble of letting an asset out of the door and letting him become a free agent, especially in the rebuilding time. If you’re a championship team you can take that gamble because you think he’ll come back. If you’re a rebuilding team you literally can not take the gamble of waiting to see and getting caught. I think in their case it was almost they had to [trade] him.”
The Celtics acquired Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and a pair of future draft picks in the trade with Dallas. Crowder has emerged as a valuable role player for Brad Stevens, while the future protected first-round pick from Dallas should hold value down the road as Mavs stars Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler continue to age further into their 30’s.
Rondo’s value may have been diminished thanks to Boston’s current roster setup, but Rivers also believes that would have improved as the team’s front office put better players around him.
“[Rondo’s value] may have [been limited now], but you were going to eventually get it back,” Rivers explained. “You know what I mean? Any great player when they don’t have great players around them you can say part of their game is going to waste a little bit until they get better players around them, because you can take so many things away from them, because you don’t have to worry about all the other guys. You can probably say that about anyone.”
Rivers may end up seeing his former point guard in the Western Conference playoffs, which would add some extra drama to an already intriguing matchup in the NBA’s tougher conference.