At the moment, it appears that the Boston Celtics are no longer a top team in the Eastern Conference. They find themselves fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot. Their past two games have been against the No. 9 and 10 seeds (Bucks and Cavaliers), teams that in recent years the Celtics would have rolled over with ease.
Finally, it seems age has caught up to the Celtics. However, what they lack in durability and have lost in ability due to their age, they still make up for with heart. They have fight left, and that determination has allowed them to perform better than they should be in their older age.
One Celtic who certainly won't roll over and die and who hasn't lost any talent due to his youth is Rajon Rondo. He often goes under the radar in discussions about the Celtics as so many choose to focus on Boston's Big Three.
Rondo's play the past few seasons has proven that he is a shining star whose stock continues to rise. Now that the Big Three are aging, many are starting to give Rondo the credit he is due.
At the end of the 2009 season, "Rajondo" saw his contract extended by the Celtics.
The deal was for five years and $55 million. "We are extremely pleased to be able to extend Rajon's contract," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said at the time. "We believe that he is one of the elite point guards in the NBA and has a tremendous future ahead of him."
That was 2009. Now it is 2012.
Although the Celtics still believe Rondo has a bright future, they are reportedly aggressively shopping their superstar point guard as the March 15 trade deadline approaches. Rondo's attitude and troubles with Coach Doc Rivers are being cited as reasons the Celtics are considering moving their best young player.
Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that Rondo is once again on the trading block. Celtics fans are starting to believe that Rondo's future, although still bright, may be somewhere outside of Boston.
The Golden State Warriors are one possible destination. In a deal with the Warriors, the Celtics would likely acquire either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry. In December, the Celtics reportedly had offered Rondo to Golden State in exchange for Curry.
One source said it was Golden State that decided to not make the deal. Curry's recent ankle injuries, which have caused him several problems in his short career, have given the Celtics a reason to second-guess such a move.
Another deal being circulated has Rondo going to the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol. That deal to me makes no sense. Trading a youthful point guard for an aging power forward-center is ludicrous. In addition, why would the Celtics want to give Rondo to the Lakers, their arch enemies?
Rondo most certainly would help the Lakers more than Gasol would help the Celtics. If the Lakers were to pull off this deal and then went on to win a championship this year or in the near future, Boston fans would never forgive Ainge for letting the Lakers catch the Celtics in total championships won.
As if Rondo being shopped wasn't enough to get the Boston Celtics' fanbase talking, the Celtics also have been rumored to be considering breaking up the "Big Three" by trading captain Paul Pierce. Salary-wise, trading Pierce would make sense, especially since he is due a salary increase in 2012/2013 to $16.7 million. From a business perspective, paying Pierce that much money at age 35 doesn't seem like it would be in the best interest of the franchise (not to say he doesn't deserve it).
It would be nice to see Pierce retire as a Celtic and keep moving up the team's record book in scoring and other statistical categories. He is one of the greatest Celtics of all time and deserves the opportunity to finish his career in Boston.
Pierce is the heart and soul of the Celtics and recently passed Larry Bird on the team's all-time scoring list. He is a clutch leader and, although aging, remains a major talent.
However, the days of being loyal to players, even ones who have been loyal to your franchise, seem to be nearing an end. The win-now mentality in the NBA and professional sports in general has changed owners' approach to forming a team.
As a result, it is possible that Pierce will be dealt for Michael Beasley of the Timberwolves. If in return for Pierce, the Celtics were to get a player of Beasley's age, potential and talents, maybe Boston fans would be able to cope with losing their captain, their champion Paul Pierce.
I leave you with the Celtics' key players' salaries through 2015 and ask, what would you do?
BOSTON CELTICS SALARIES (via Hoopshype)
|Key: Bold Salaries are Qualifying Offers and Italicized Salaries are Team Options|
|Kevin Garnett||$ 21,200,000||$ -||$ -||$ -|
|Paul Pierce||$ 15,333,334||$16,790,345||$15,333,334||$ -|
|Ray Allen||$ 10,000,000||$ -||$ -||$ -|
|Rajon Rondo||$ 10,000,000||$11,000,000||$12,000,000||$13,000,000|
|Jermaine O'Neal||$ 6,226,000||$ -||$ -||$ -|
|Avery Bradley||$ 1,524,480||$ 1,630,800||$ 2,511,432||$ 3,581,302|