Danny Ainge is actively trying to trade Rajon Rondo. No matter what Ainge said during his joint press conference with Doc Rivers, no matter how many times he carefully tried to avoid saying he was openly shopping Rondo, no matter what a Hornets source told Gary Washburn about Ainge not shopping Rondo, it’s becoming evident that the truth is otherwise.
Ainge is not actively trying to trade Rondo for just anyone. He is trying only to trade Rondo for Chris Paul, widely believed to be the NBA’s best point guard, or for Stephen Curry, who would then be swapped for Paul. The proposed end result of Ainge’s madness always ends with Paul in green and white, teaming with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen for at least one season of what-if, then re-signing (or not re-signing) with the Celtics when his free agency arrives at year’s end.
Ainge is willing to acquire Paul without any promise the All-Star will remain in Boston beyond 2011-12. Whether Ainge believes that strongly in his own persuasive powers — that he will be able to convince Paul (and maybe someone else, possibly named Dwight Howard) to become Boston’s future — or he simply believes Paul is the key to maximizing the Big Three’s NBA title chances in the coming season, Ainge would reportedly roll the dice without any assurances. Ainge is willing to trade Rondo, whose ridiculously-below-market-level contract expires after the 2013-14 season, for one season of Paul, one season to try to convince Paul to make Boston his permanent home. In other words, Ainge is willing to trade Boston’s lone building block for the future in exchange for what might amount to a one-year rental, but has the (however slight or strong) possibility to leave Boston with the world’s best point guard for the foreseeable future.
What we know for sure, or what we believe we know for sure based on what the world’s top NBA reporters can agree on, is surrounded by a layer of questions, all equally as perplexing as the next. Allow me to take a stab at answering some of them.
Why is Ainge pursuing Paul so aggressively?
I’ve thought about this question a lot and narrowed it down to two primary reasons: 1) Paul’s a better player, and 2) Ainge would make out with his mother if he felt it would improve the Boston Celtics. Ainge has come to the conclusion, right or wrong, that Paul’s talents outweigh Rondo’s and are worth risking the possibility of entering the 2012-13 season with only Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley under contract.
Would trading for Paul, then losing him to free agency, kill Boston’s immediate future?
Yes or no. But probably yes. If the Celtics enter the summer of 2012 with just Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley under contract, there’s no attraction for Dwight Howard. Nor would there be one for Deron Williams (unless the pair miraculously decided to join Boston together, despite the fact that no superstar free agent has ever signed in Boston). The second-tier unrestricted free agents in 2012 are Andrew Bynum (whose knees are made of Jermaine O’Neal), Tim Duncan (who will be approximately 84 years old), Steve Nash (who will be even older), Jason Kidd (who could be Duncan’s grandfather), Gerald Wallace and Jason Terry. All are decent players. None would make the Celtics’ future seem much less bleak.
Assuming that neither Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen retire after this season, the two would be free agents who the Celtics could presumably sign and give the Big Three yet another chance. But if you think the Big Three could contend as a nucleus in 2012-13, without Rajon Rondo, you probably need to wash the rust that’s accumulating on your brain. Basically, if the Celtics trade for Paul, it’s re-sign or bust.
Why is Boston’s offer for Paul considered second-rate?
I still don’t understand this. The Hornets reportedly value Stephen Curry more than Rondo. A package of Curry, Klay Thompson and Ekpe Udoh reportedly holds more value than a package of Rondo, Jeff Green and two first-round picks. Huh?
Rondo’s resume: two All-Star appearances, two-time All-Defensive First Team selection, one championship, the best playoff performer (by far) for a team that went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Boston’s best playoff performer for the past three seasons (marred only by his elbow injury this season), second in the NBA in assists last season (just 0.2 behind Nash), occasionally inconsistent production, tough hombre who normally rises to the occasion of big games
Curry’s resume: zero All-Star appearances, zero playoff appearances, a terrific shooter, average playmaker, candidate for Tim Kawakami’s annual All-NBA No-Defense Team (Kawakami, a Warriors beat reporter, should know as well as anyone) and someone whose presence actually made the miserable Golden State Warriors defense worse, albeit very slightly
Keep in mind, Rondo’s just two years older than Curry and already has NBA Finals experience. I realize Curry’s a better shooter and scorer. Far better, even. But considering how much more Rondo has accomplished in his career, understanding Rondo improves by miles every season and realizing that the Celtics’ reported deal is even sweetened by multiple draft picks, how is Golden St.’s package better than Boston’s? I’m confused. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, for all I know, the rumors might have been leaked by a New Orleans front office executive looking to extract more talent from Danny Ainge’s pocket. Who knows?
I could do the same comparison using the Hornets’ reported infatuation with Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. Am I crazy, or is Boston’s reported offer simply better than either of those teams’?
Why might any potential Chris Paul trade be controversial?
The NBA currently owns the Hornets. If Paul ends up in Boston or any other big market, conspiracy theorists will soon be shouting through megaphones, picketing with signs and throwing bricks through windows.
How will Rondo react to all the rumors?
Let’s pretend the Celtics don’t trade Rondo. At this point, it seems like the likely outcome. Ainge will try to explain the rumors by telling Rondo something to the effect of, “But at least we tried trading you for Chris Paul and only Chris Paul, not anyone lesser.”
But here’s the thing: Rondo considers himself the league’s best point guard and has for years. Trying to trade him for a player Ainge considers better isn’t just likely to hurt Rondo’s feelings. It also attacks Rondo’s supreme self-confidence, one of the pillars on which Rondo has built his career. That confidence won’t go away anytime soon. But his trust and appreciation for Ainge (and perhaps Doc Rivers) sure might. Rondo can be an emotionally fickle guy. These rumors, even if that’s all they amount to, won’t help.
The difference between the current Rondo trade rumors and the 2009 Rondo trade rumors is this: Then, the Celtics were shopping Rondo because he misbehaved too often. Now, they’re shopping him because they think they can acquire a better player. Should Paul be traded elsewhere, the effect of these trade rumors on Rondo might be far greater (and worse) than they were two years ago.