When it comes to Rondo, people have passionate feelings. Some love him, some hate him. I love him. But if you think Ainge loves him too, you’re ignoring (or not believing) the rumors that he shopped Rondo around the league with as much zeal as Dell Demps did with Chris Paul.
Fortunately for Paul, he wanted to be traded, so the feeling was mutual. But I truly believe Rondo wants to be on the Celtics for his entire career. And I love that about him. I want him here too.
But things are not that simple.
Rondo and Ainge are stuck with each other, so they’re going to claim to be happy with the situation. But players take trade rumors to heart, whether they admit it or not.
Lamar Odom is a great example of a player being honest about his feelings of being disrespected by a team shopping him around. Perkins was equally as open about it when he was traded out of Boston.
Rondo’s saying he’s happy. Doc’s saying he’s happy. Ainge is saying it too. But to believe them is to ignore (or to not believe) some intriguing comments they’ve made recently.
But before we get into that, let me wind the clocks back and get to the root of this.
It all traces back to Chris Paul.
Ainge has wanted this kid for a lot longer than two weeks. Did you know that Ainge nearly traded Paul Pierce to get him?
Back when Paul was up for the draft, Ainge chased him. Pierce was a factor in this. During the draft, The Boston Globe printed two different season ticket advertisements; one had Paul Pierce in it, and the other didn’t. Ainge’s intent was to trade Pierce to Portland in exchange for the No. 3 pick, which would’ve been used to snatch Paul. The Boston Globe didn’t know which ad to use because they didn’t know if Pierce was going to be on the Boston Celtics.
Why was Pierce on the chopping block? Because at the time, around 2005, Pierce was a bit of a troublemaker. There were issues there.
So when you know all that, it sheds some new light on the last two weeks. It’s not so surprising that Ainge went to the mattresses to try for Paul a second time. And this time, Rondo was the bait. And all of a sudden, details of Rondo’s issues began to surface.
Ainge desperately wants Paul. It’s too late now, but the facts are the facts. And if New Orleans had said yes to Ainge, then Rajon Rondo would be a Hornet and Chris Paul would be a Celtic.
Rondo knows this. He’s a smart kid; he’s aware of what’s going on. Does it rattle him? No one can know for sure. Maybe not, since he’s a mentally tough guy.
But what probably does bother him is the fact that a number of sources say Ainge offered Rondo to a few teams, and they all said no. Whether or not that’s true hasn’t been confirmed, but the rumors are there, and the perception is that Rondo isn’t wanted. How Rondo could not be wanted, I’ll never understand. I think he’s fantastic. But that perception is out there, just like the perception was that teams were willing to do anything to acquire Paul.
Over the last week or two, a line was drawn between Paul and Rondo. The whole trade fiasco, swirling rumors and all, pitted them against each other in terms of their value. And most people sided with Paul.
The other day, Rivers said, “Rondo is so much better now than when he first got here. He has fallbacks, just like I’m sure I do as a coach and as a person.”
Rivers said a lot of good stuff too. But that quote says a lot. The implication is that Rondo used to be a problem all the time, and now he’s only a problem sometimes.
But it doesn’t end there. Rondo said “I’m not going to try and point fingers at anybody. Any relationship problems that I have with anybody on this team or anybody on the coaching staff, I have to do better as a player and as a leader. I didn’t ask for this role, but it’s a part of it. For one, being a point guard, for two, the way that I do play, so I just have to embrace it, I guess. I have to get better. Each year I think I’m getting better. I may have my incidents, but each year I think I’ve handled criticism a lot better.”
Rondo also said “When I first came back and we were allowed to talk to each other [after the lockout], Doc and I had a meeting for about an hour. Then on the first day of practice we had another meeting on what he wanted out of me, and what he was looking for in the season. I don’t know. I think we have respect for each other. Obviously though, it has to grow. But each year, I think we’re getting better.”
Now, in all fairness, Rondo also added “We’ve come a long way. I don’t want to play for anybody else. Honestly.”
And I’m glad he said that. I don’t want him to play for anybody else either. But these pieces add up to something. To what, exactly, I’m not sure. But I do know that Kevin Garnett wasn’t on the chopping block and Rondo was.
Perhaps Ainge just thinks Paul’s a better player than Rondo. And it’s his right to believe that.
The reason I care so much about this is because I care so much about Rajon Rondo. I’m a passionate Celtics fan, and I want them to win as many championships as possible.
But this season could not have gotten off to a rockier start, and that disturbs me. Garnett complaining about the rushed camp adds to this mess. Desperately trying to fill out the roster adds to this mess. Seeing so many of my favorite players shipped out of Boston adds to this mess.
Are the Celtics going to be a contender this year or not? That’s really all I care about. Can we beat the Heat? Can we beat the Knicks? If we hit the Finals, can we beat the Lakers or (dare I say) the Clippers?
If the answer is yes, then I’m happy.
But if the answer is no, then we have to hold someone accountable. This isn’t some random team. This is the Boston Celtics. This is a proud franchise, and it’s the responsibility of the fans to keep it that way.
When our best player is put up for trade, we need to ask why. And we deserve an answer. So many people rushed to judgement about the benefits of Paul, but some of us wanted to know why Rondo was expendable in the first place. Again, maybe Ainge just wants Paul more. End of story.
But we still don’t know.
And now, we’re in the position of having to cross our fingers and hope for the best this season.