As an accomplished Rajon Rondo admirer/apologist, it is with no small degree of reluctance and resignation that I can finally acknowledge the reality of his situation.
He’s not going to be a Celtics lifer, and he’s not going to be a Celtic a hell of a lot longer.
The last member of the esteemed 2007-08 championship team to wear the green-and-white — damn, was Banner 17 really that long ago already? — not getting a max deal here, with a rebuilding team more justifiably focused on finding its next stars than retaining the single prime-of-career stalwart on the roster.
Rondo is going to be dealt before his 28th birthday, which happens to be February 22, or three days after the NBA trading deadline. Chances are he’ll be dealt sooner rather than later.
When ESPN’s Marc Stein and Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski each reported Wednesday night that the Celtics and Mavericks were discussing a deal that would send Rondo to Dallas for C/F Brandan Wright and at least one first-round pick, it felt imminent, even though it was not.
There was something different about this rumor, an attached sense that if this isn’t the deal that ends Rondo’s electrifying, enigmatic run in Boston, the deal that does it will be revealed soon enough.
A Rondo trade? It’s inevitable now. And so the reasonable among us who hoped he could somehow stick around long enough to become part of the next great Celtics team … well, still have our hopes.
I never wanted to see him traded. Now, I don’t want to see him traded for this.
Wright is an interesting player, a darling of the basketball advanced metrics crowd in part because of his remarkable efficiency — in a relatively low-usage role, he’s shooting .748 from the field this season, a crazy enough stat even before considering that it’s .415 higher than Rondo’s free-throw percentage.
Wright, who at 27 — he’s just 16 months younger than Rondo — was described as “blossoming” in Stein’s report. I tend to think its more of a case of Rick Carlisle using him effectively. Nevertheless, he would be an interesting piece for the Celtics if not for one thing — like Rondo, he’s a free-agent at season’s end.
That deal, proving the reports of the moving parts are accurate, simply is not enough for Rondo, even in the last year of his deal. Dallas, 19-8 this season, would feature an outstanding starting five were Rondo to join Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, and Chandler Parsons.
Any first-round pick sent to the Celtics would have diminishing value because of how much Rondo, a bright-lights player who surely would be energized by playing for a good team again, would elevate the Mavericks.
A late first-round pick, an ascending big man headed to free agency, and perhaps some cap relief? That cannot be enough to convince Danny Ainge to make this deal. And I don’t think he will, unless what I believe to be the chief element of his current plan fails — and that would be convincing any team that is interested in Rondo to start getting serious about trying to acquire him.
I can’t imagine Ainge has a problem with this rumor getting out, because it might accelerate the process and allow him to coax the best offers out of the teams reportedly interested in Rondo — among them the Rockets, Kings, Knicks and Pacers.
It’s practically a warning to Houston general manager Darryl Morey: I’m close to dealing him to your rival. You’d better get serious now.
It’s a message to the improved but typically chaos-engulfed Kings to consider parting with real value (though getting Ben McLemore, who is playing much better as a Sacramento sophomore, is a greedy daydream).
And it mocks the Knicks, who have traded so many first-round picks that they can’t deal another until Tim Hardaway III is eligible for the draft. And I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been born yet.
I’d love to see Rondo end up in Indiana. Larry Bird has always appreciated Rondo, a crucial confirmation of the point guard’s standing among those whose opinions carry real weight. But taking sentimentality out of it, the catch-22 is that Rondo is most coveted by contenders (save for the Knicks), which would seem to limit the chance of acquiring appealing draft picks in return.
Rondo, our proud, exasperating genius, the big-game baller who still has flaws such as a foul-line phobia, deserves to go to a good team and play games that matter again.
The Celtics deserve to trade him for the biggest haul they can get in return.
Sooner rather than later, we’ll find out whether those are mutually exclusive concepts or not.