So long as Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo stays on course to become a free agent in 2015, you'll hear him linked to any team projected to have cap space. That's how these things work. Get used to it.
A recent interview threw a little wrench into the speculation machine, however. Rondo's former high school coach at Oak Hill Academy, Steve Smith, was conducting what appeared to be an innocent, retrospective interview. But then Smith said this, via Jason Jordan of USA Today, completely unprompted:
Whether he stays in Boston or not who knows. I know, talking to Melo (Carmelo Anthony), he's recruiting Rajon to come to New York. Melo thinks he'll come too. You never know about that stuff though. I think either way, Rajon will be fine.
Anthony, who has the option to opt out of his current deal and become a free agent this offseason, also attended Oak Hill, so this isn't completely out of nowhere.
This is very good news for the New York Knicks, not necessarily because you should believe that Anthony's powers of persuasion will actually get Rondo in a Knicks uniform, but more because he's at least trying. That's an encouraging sign from a player who could very easily abandon a sinking ship this offseason.
But how realistic is the idea of Rondo suiting up next to Anthony? It all depends on timing.
It may not seem like an actual possibility, but Rondo could join the Knicks after the 2014-15 season very easily.
Rondo will be a restricted free agent that summer, and the Knicks should have loads of cap space, barring any boneheaded deals that bring on tons of salary.
J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton will both have player options, and Iman Shumpert will be due a qualifying offer if he's still around. Technically, though, the Knicks will have no one on a guaranteed deal after next season.
Anthony's next deal will take up a large chunk of cap space, obviously, but New York can easily create room for a second max contract, particularly if Smith or Felton decline their player options in order to lock up long-term money elsewhere.
There are many implausible scenarios that will pop up surrounding both Rondo and the Knicks, but this isn't one of them. As it stands right now, Rondo could very easily join Anthony in 2015.
Could the Knicks land Rondo any sooner than that? Don't hold your breath.
There are a few obstacles at play here. The first is New York's lack of desirable assets.
Due to the Stepien Rule, the Knicks don't have an available first-round pick to trade until 2018. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway may be the only attractive young players on the roster, and it's doubtful that both would be available. The Knicks also lack deals that will expire before Rondo's contract, which makes shedding salary from Boston's side of things difficult.
Of course, that's all overlooking the fact that Boston would be trading its best player to a conference rival.
But for argument's sake, let's conveniently forget all those things and try to find a deal.
Any trade for Rondo would likely need Gerald Wallace attached as well. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker for New York, but it would certainly give the team some pause. Wallace's deal runs through the 2015-16 season, meaning that any dreams of luring a third big player in the 2015 offseason would likely be dashed.
But since New York has never been a franchise that cared much for the future, let's assume it'd take Wallace on.
What would Boston want back? Let's throw Iman Shumpert in to start. We'll leave out Smith and Felton, though. They would have no business being involved in a rebuilding process, particularly since their player options could force the Celtics to pay salary when they don't exactly want to.
So where are we going to find the $20 million needed in salary from New York to make the numbers match up?
Tyson Chandler is a good starting point at $14 million, but then we're still about $5-6 million short with no player on New York's roster outside of Smith making that amount. Besides, we've seen what New York looks like without Chandler this year. Would the team really want to move him for a point guard who hasn't played a minute after ACL surgery?
Maybe the Celtics would take back Amar'e Stoudemire instead if they could dump Wallace and Courtney Lee, but there just isn't enough there to sweeten the pot. Shumpert is solid but not a franchise building block, and New York's picks are too far off in the distance to aggressively pursue right now.
Also, it's important to remember that Boston is within $100,000 of being in the luxury tax. The Celtics will treat that line like lava, which even further limits the options in a big trade with New York.
The chances New York can put together an appealing package for Rondo are incredibly slim, particularly as things stand right now.
With tons of cap space on the way and Rondo saddled with a bad roster in Boston, there will come a time where Boston may be more desperate to receive something in return for Rondo, even if it's cap relief and draft picks way off into the distance. Remember, Rondo can force Boston's hand much in the same way Anthony did with Denver.
Maybe there's a trade scenario that would make sense somewhere down the line, but that time isn't upon us yet. Going after Rondo in the 2015 offseason is the most realistic option at play.
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