Maybe that headline should come with the caveat that you shouldn’t give a thumbs-down to any potential trade until you know what’s coming back in return.
But I’m pretty comfortable in saying that at this point of the abbreviated, condensed NBA season, there’s no chance the Celtics will receive equal, let alone greater, value for enigmatic, electric All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
And that is the only circumstance in which Danny Ainge should trade him.
I suppose I could talk myself into the likable, talented Stephen Curry, right up until the next time he rolls an ankle. But the very suggestion that they should trade Rondo for a couple decent parts and not a player of equal promise or value is absurd. That is the fastest way to that NBA purgatory of perpetual mediocrity, and that’s exactly what the Celtics are trying to avoid. If Danny Ainge trades Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and yes, Rondo, it’s going to be for real value that expedites the rebuilding/reloading process, not a deal for the sake of “blowing it up.”
It’s harder to put together a genuine championship contender in the NBA than it is in any other sport. You either trade Pierce/Garnett/Allen for equal quality — and that’s not happening — or you let the expiring contracts walk after this year and aim to sign two max contract guys. If no one of magnitude takes their money, that’s when you start fresh. Not now.
Ainge knows those treading-water trades get you nothing but a 38-44 record, perhaps an eighth seed every other year, and a spot in the draft that assures you of picking a half-dozen or so places after the last potential difference-maker has tried on an ill-fitting hat and shaken David Stern’s hand.
I’m not disputing that Rondo’s quirks — OK, go ahead, call it a knack for being a mercurial pain in the, er, posterior — are extraordinarily aggravating, and one can only imagine the behind-the-scenes stories we don’t know. (Write a book someday, Doc.)
It’s frustrating to witness Rondo contributing in so many spectacular ways one night (a triple-double Wednesday against the Bucks, his third this year of the eight in the league) and so distracted or immature (chucking the ball at the ref and getting tossed at a time when the shorthanded Celtics desperately needed him) on other nights. It’s on him and only him to start providing the night-to-night consistency.
Like everyone else who watches him — Doc, Danny, Mike and Tommy — of course I wish he were more engaged sometimes. You watch him at his dazzling, original best, when he’s playing like he has a point to prove, and he gets to the rim at absolute will, you’re left wondering why he doesn’t do that all the time. I think of him and David Krejci in the same regard — superb talents who too often play like they’re bored with their gifts.
And for a guy with so much self-confidence personally, you wish it would manifest itself in the fourth quarter more often. It’s amazing how much more often free throws go in when the shooter believes they will.
But the Aggravations of Rondo shouldn’t overshadow the good times. His scattered brilliant postseason performances and showdowns with the Derrick Roses and Chris Pauls when he rises to the occasion and doesn’t back down. Famously beating Jason Williams to that loose ball he had no business corralling. Stepping in and running the point on a championship team dominated by the abilities and egos of three future Hall of Famers. That plastic-man athleticism that sometimes makes other NBA players — the best athletes in the world — look like Over-40 rec league grinders.
Rajon Rondo is 26 years old. He’s one the top-five point guards in the league. His contract is a bargain. You don’t trade that guy. You look to bring in a couple of players who can run with him.
Yeah, he’s an enigma. But the good outweighs the bad, and he’s our enigma. I hope he’s still a Celtic when he puts it all together, physically and mentally. And if he never does, well, he’s still a pleasure to watch more often than not.