While some Boston fans may not want to embrace reality, the recent Rajon Rondo for Dwight Howard rumor is just the tip of the iceberg. If Rondo isn't dealt before the trade deadline, don't be surprised to hear his name bandied about quite a bit over the coming months.
While the Los Angeles Lakers have vehemently denied the original report from Ken Berger of CBS Sports, it appears as if the Celtics' general manager Danny Ainge is slowly guiding his team into rebuilding mode. No one in green and white is safe: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have also been the subject of trade rumors in recent days.
It's unlikely that Boston would be willing to trade Rondo if they thought that he could be the centerpiece on a team that could contend for a title. And based on everything that we've seen so far, it would be hard to question the Celtics' motives if they do decide to move their mercurial playmaker.
Rondo is an incredible talent, and he's arguably the second-best point guard in the Association (Chris Paul has the No. 1 spot locked down for the foreseeable future). But he simply isn't the type of player that a team can build around if they truly have championship aspirations.
Boston tried to hand the reins over to Rondo prior to the start of the season, but after a mildly successful 8-5 start, the Celtics would go on to lose nine of their next 14. To be fair, Boston was still struggling to find its identity after losing Ray Allen to the Miami Heat and adding nine new players in the offseason.
But before the Celtics could ever find their groove, Rondo tore his ACL on Jan. 25 against the Atlanta Hawks, putting an end to his 2012-13 season.
Although the Celtics are 8-1 in the weeks since Rondo's injury, it's still unclear as to whether or not the team is better off without him. Paul Pierce doesn't think so, and he attributes Boston's success to he and the rest of his teammates rallying around the injury.
"I really don't buy into that notion," said Pierce in an interview with Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe. "We're using the injuries as motivation—and we're actually playing for Rondo."
That may, in fact, be true—we've seen a number of teams over the years pick their collective games up after a player suffers a devastating injury. What also happens to be true is that the Celtics are Paul Pierce's team until the day he takes off the white-and-green jersey for the final time, despite Doc Rivers' statements to the contrary.
Another truth—Boston isn't noticeably worse in Rondo's absence. The Celtics' shooting percentage with Rondo off the court/on the bench this season is pretty much the same as it was when he was directing the offense. And despite his status as an elite lead guard, the Celtics actually scored 6.1 more points per 100 possessions without Rondo in the lineup.
After six-plus NBA seasons, it's clear that Rondo is best suited to be the No. 2 or No. 3 option on a team—not its focal point. And despite what the numbers say this season, he typically does make his teammates better (or, at the very least, gets them the ball in positions where they can be productive).
Rondo outplays his opponent virtually every time that he steps out onto the floor, and his defensive intensity is matched by few wing players in the entire NBA. Does he engage in stat-padding a bit too much? Sure. Could his three-point shot use a bit of work? Absolutely. But when it comes right down to it, Rondo is still a premier level talent.
However, in the wild world of the NBA, not even star players are immune from being traded. Is Dwight Howard the answer for the Celtics? It's hard to say, for starters, and that deal is a long way from ever coming to fruition. More importantly, the rumor likely opens the floodgates for other teams who are interested in acquiring Rondo's services.
The window is just about closed for the current group of Celtics, and we'll know for certain that it's shut if and when one of the Big Three is sent away in a trade. At this point, the odds that Rondo is the first man sent out the door are pretty high, but it may take a few months for the team to ultimately part ways with All-Star point guard.
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