What Must Happen for Boston Celtics to Trade Rajon Rondo and Start Full Rebuild
The major trade of his former co-horts to the Brooklyn Nets and an ACL injury have quieted those rumors for the better part of this last year, but they will arise again, either at the season’s outset, or after Rondo’s return.
Boston's star point guard will make $11.95 million this season and $12.91 million in 2014-15. Beyond that is up in the air at this point. If something happens over the next eight to 10 months to make Boston question offering a big extension, the chances of a trade increase.
The idea isn’t pleasant, unless a young All-Star is in the return package, nor is the prospect of multiple rebuilding years. If a Rondo trade could expedite that process, Celtics president Danny Ainge would pounce on it faster than a 98.5 Rick Pitino interview.
If He Misbehaves
If Rajon Rondo hasn’t learned his lesson after repeated opportunities for growth, a trade would not only be beneficial, but increasingly palatable for the fanbase.
Any extreme run-ins with officials or opponents would make the Rondo trade much more likely. His leadership role this season will be too magnified to withstand more of those sour actions.
Physically intimidating a referee or throwing down an opponent with ideas of retribution are understandable and perhaps acceptable for your wild-card third star. However, when your best and longest-tenured player is acting that way, the team dynamic shifts and young guys stop learning the right way to go about their business.
The Celtics are in a fragile state of rebuilding and there are young pieces on this team that they don't want to spoil. If Rondo can't be a responsible leader and control his actions, Danny Ainge could finally pull that trigger.
Celtics Could Be Blown Away
Danny Ainge has said repeatedly that he will consider any trade he thinks will make his team better overall.
That rarely includes Rajon Rondo for the simple reason that he is very good and not a lot of trade offers would make the Boston Celtics better. However, if the right offer finally did come along, Ainge has proven his sentimentality won't get in the way.
A mammoth offer seems far-fetched at this point. The Andre Drummond package is probably off the table with Brandon Jennings in Detroit. DeMarcus Cousins just signed a big extension with the new Sacramento Kings, so images of him in Celtics green will continue to be just dreams.
The trio of possibly available big men—Anderson Varejao, Marcin Gortat and Omer Asik—are all intriguing for Boston, but Rondo's price tag has to be higher. Also all three of those bigs come from teams with fairly well-established point guards.
At this point, it is tough to see where that "Godfather" offer comes from but that doesn't mean it isn't out there.
If Jeff Green and Avery Bradley Just Aren't That Good
It seems blasphemous in Boston to ponder the possibility of neither Jeff Green nor Avery Bradley working out, but both have a lot to prove this coming season.
Just as Rajon Rondo's stature is elevated to full-on team leader and best player, both Green and Bradley will be raised on the depth chart and in fans' minds. A lot is expected of both players, as they have shown glimpses of very good play in the past. If Boston is to have any surprise success this coming season, it will hinge on these two being better than expected.
There is the possibility that both have career years and help Rondo in leading the Celtics to a respectable 2013-14 season. However, there is also the possibility that neither player pops due to injury or simple talent, and Rondo is left trying to tread water with a sinking ship.
If Green and Bradley aren't good enough as supporting pieces, it adds a whole extra step to the rebuilding process. That step could very well include trading Rondo for a bevy of promising assets.
If the Brad Stevens Relationship Is a Charade
One of the Boston Celtics' biggest agendas at Media Day appeared to be getting the word out that Rajon Rondo and Brad Stevens had a great relationship.
This may be completely on the level and true, as Rondo and Stevens seemed to get along and say all the right things. However, Media Day is a different event than Game 52 of a long NBA season.
The Celtics are most likely going to lose a lot of games and with that will come tension. If that tension rises to a breaking point with a difference of opinion between Rondo and Stevens, a rift could be created.
Stevens has never handled a player of Rondo's caliber or personality. Doc Rivers had plenty of experience with NBA players and brought Rondo up from a young age. Now Rondo is the established one and Stevens is in a new position.
Obviously it is tough to choose who Danny Ainge would side with given a major rift, but Stevens does have a longer contract right now, and thus more invested in him. Boston would also be able to get much more out of parting ways with Rondo than they would firing a first-year head coach.
If He Asks out
Let's not forget that it is Rajon Rondo who has the biggest bone to pick given the way this offseason went down.
He has every right to feel abandoned and at-risk. He is in the early part of his prime as one of the league's elite point guards, and his franchise just decimated his supporting cast for little immediate return.
Rondo loves playing in Boston and has developed an identity that is aided by his stature with the Boston Celtics. However, elite players don't enjoy being saddled with rebuilding projects and short-term rental teammates.
The luxury of distributing the ball to Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen for so many years is gone. Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley aren't turning the same percentage of those passes into assists, which could get frustrating for Rondo, especially if the team is losing and he has his own issues with a return from ACL surgery.
One of the biggest reasons that Rondo could end up getting traded is by his own hand. He holds a fair amount of power in choosing his return date. He is also the most recognizable and marketable face on the roster.
Rondo can make things very difficult on Danny Ainge if he wants out of Boston.
If He Is Not the Same
It wouldn't be the first time an athlete's ceiling was drastically altered by a major injury.
Given how advanced modern medicine is, we sometimes take recovering from these injuries for granted. No two bodies are the same, except maybe the Morrises in Phoenix. What takes one athlete a couple of months to recover could take another a year.
At the same time, one may return to his former self with no noticeable change in skill or production, while the other never regains his explosiveness or agility.
We all know how tough a player Rajon Rondo is. He has proven that a few times, particularly with gutsy playoff performances. However, sometimes guts aren't enough. If his body starts failing him where it used to be flawless, he could grow frustrated or depressed with himself.
If Rondo returns in the middle of this season and is merely average for 30-40 games, concerns will arise that he may have rushed back.
If the injury has sapped some hidden trait that allowed Rondo to be Rondo, we won't know until enough time has passed. But, if that is the case, a trade becomes all the more likely.