Should The Boston Celtics Trade Rajon Rondo?

Rajon Rondo says he's happy, but does anyone really think that will last?

Rajon Rondo says he’s happy, but does anyone really think that will last?

The potential relationship between Boston Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo, and the team’s new coach, 36-year-old Brad Stevens, has drawn some media scrutiny in these early days of the franchise’s new era. Will Rondo, noted for his difficult temperament, be able to co-exist with a new head coach completely lacking in NBA experience and cache?

Thus far, both sides have said and done all the right things. Rondo, through his agent, said he’s ready to work with Stevens. The new coach paid a visit to the player’s summer camp in Louisville. It’s all goodwill right now in the Rondo-Stevens relationship.

The real question, and the one that has correctly invited mainstream media scrutiny, is what’s going to happen if the Celtics start the season poorly. Is Rondo still going to be accommodating if the team is, say 10-22, and headed for the lottery? We know the point guard was willing to clash with a figure as respected as Doc Rivers, and surrounded by players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. For that matter, Rondo clashed with Allen, and while Celtics’ fans are furious with Allen today, he’s also one of the easier people in the NBA to co-exist with.

You have to put me down as a skeptic, and not just if the team starts poorly. In fact, I don’t consider it a given that the Celtics are going to be awful next season. A team with Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green can still compete in what is by far the weaker of the two conferences in the East. But if Rondo had problems in the previous era, this next one is going to be even worse. Now he’s indisputably the team leader and has more cache than his new coach. This doesn’t seem like a recipe for contentment.

That’s just one factor Celtics GM Danny Ainge has to weigh. The other is this—even if Rondo were guaranteed to get along and play great basketball, is the time ripe to trade him? The team’s fan base is settled in for a rebuilding haul and no one is willing to trade off the hopes of a potential championship lineup five years from now in exchange for an 8-seed in 2014. Rondo would bring back a substantial haul, especially now that Chris Paul—the only point guard even comparable—is off the market.

Furthermore, there is a team out there who is thinking about a championship, but needs to add one more marquee player to make it happen. The best way for this particular team to fill that need would be to add a point guard. I refer to the Houston Rockets. Now that they’ve signed Dwight Howard to join up with James Harden, the next step is to add a big-time point guard (unless you’re one of the few remaining believers in Lin-Sanity). Houston is all-in to win now. It’s got to at least be worth talking to the Rockets.

A cynic might say that the Celtics owe the Rockets—or, more accurately, that the Ainge owns Houston coach Kevin McHale, his former teammate here in the Hub. You may recall that McHale was the general manager in Minnesota when the team dumped Kevin Garnett’s contract and chose Boston as the place to do it.

Cynics or no, it does underscore the obvious relationship that exists between McHale and Ainge and the possibility they can get a deal done. I’m not saying that I think Ainge must  trade Rondo, or that he should settle for even seventy-five cents on the dollar. The GM should get full market value for his best asset, and if no one offers it, than just move the rebuilding forward with Rondo on the team.

Let’s just be cognizant of the fact that market value for Rondo is going to be higher before he explodes rather than after, and you have to be a pretty big optimist to think there’s no explosion in the future.

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