The Boston Celtics are currently occupying an interesting spot in the Eastern Conference. Their threadbare roster has won just 14 games during the 2013-14 campaign, but the team is still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.
With Rajon Rondo set to return to the lineup on Friday, Jan. 17 against the rival Los Angeles Lakers, general manager Danny Ainge has some important decisions to make. Namely, will he attempt to deal the star point guard ahead of the Feb. 20 trade deadline to return future value, or will he stay put and use Rondo as a cornerstone to build around?
Let’s take a look at the latest on that front and more in today’s Boston-centric NBA rumor roundup.
Rival Executives Believe Ainge Will Dump Rondo
Despite being paid an extremely reasonable amount for his production and being just 27 years old, Rondo could be on his way out of Beantown sometime in the next month or so.
The mercurial guard is owed $12 million for this campaign and $13 million for the 2014-15 season and was playing extremely well for the C’s prior to going down with a torn ACL nearly a year ago.
Rondo holds career averages of 11.1 points, 8.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game, while his postseason figures are even more impressive. He is known to rise to the occasion, and his 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals during the playoffs prove exactly that.
If he’s able to come back and show that he’s still capable of playing at that extremely high level, Ainge would be foolish not to at least entertain the possibility of trading him for a variety of future assets—whether those are developmental prospects, picks in a loaded 2014 draft or salary relief stemming from Gerald Wallace’s albatross of a contract—which will still have two years and more than $20 million left after the season.
ESPN’s Chad Ford (behind pay wall, via ESPNBoston) has found that is exactly what other GMs in the league expect Ainge will do: “…There is an increasing belief among NBA circles that GM Danny Ainge will use [Rondo], once healthy, to get multiple assets back.”
Ainge did tell Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald that Rondo is part of the team’s future and he has no plans to dump his star player, bluntly stating back in November, "I haven’t talked to any teams about Rajon Rondo.”
Boston’s brass clearly isn’t afraid to work the phones and just recently pulled the trigger on a three-team deal that sent guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Joel Anthony from the Miami Heat, a second-round pick and a protected first-rounder that could become a second-rounder.
Courtney Lee, another guard, was also sent packing earlier in January, being swapped for Jerryd Bayless of the Memphis Grizzlies in a money-saving maneuver.
The Celtics’ flurry of moves may or not be foreshadowing a potential blockbuster trade that involves Rondo. However, it does show that this club is willing to do whatever it takes to better position itself for the future.
Ainge has until 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 20 to decide if Rondo is going to be a part of that plan beyond this season. It’s a tough decision and the fanbase isn’t going to be happy if he does go through with a trade, but it may be for the best.
C’s Reportedly Looking to Add Chris Johnson
Boston has to reload the roster after shipping Crawford and Brooks off, and it appears that the team is looking at the D-League to accomplish this.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Chris Johnson of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers reportedly recently traveled to Boston for a workout with the Celtics and has a good shot at landing a 10-day contract with the club.
The 6’6” swingman has been doing well in the NBA’s version of the minors, averaging 19.4 points on 47 percent field goal shooting and 37 percent from beyond the arc, as well as 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 block per game.
Johnson last played in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2012-13 season, seeing time in eight games. He averaged 3.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in 12.8 minutes during that stretch, mostly specializing as a three-point shooter (18 of his 25 shots were from downtown).
It’s doubtful that he’ll see too much time for the Celtics, but he should be able to bolster the rotation and provide insurance in the case of injury. The 24-year-old has some upside and could be a surprising addition to the roster.