Rajon Rondo is competing with Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as the best player on a sub-30-win team.
It’s not exactly an ideal place – for the player or the team.
Rondo surely wants to play for a better team than last year’s Celtics, and the Celtics surely want to put a better team around him. Same with Kobe and the Lakers, Cousins and the Kings, Drummond and the Pistons. But the timing of those rebuilds can be difficult, especially with good players helping to keep their team from landing too high in the lottery.
So, inevitably, trade discussions arise. Kobe, Cousins and Drummond are all – for now at least – entrenched with their current teams on multi-year contracts. So, they’re not on the market the same way.
Rondo, on the other hand, has a contract that expires after next season.
But what we’ve been hearing for a while and in more concerted tones here is that Rajon Rondo may be more available now than ever before.
The Celts’ president of basketball operations, as well, dismissed talk of Rondo’s obtainability.
“That’s all speculation,” Ainge said. “Those aren’t facts. People don’t know that, so it’s just people speculating on Rondo’s free agency next summer. That’s all that you’re hearing. You’re not hearing any facts from anybody. Those conversations haven’t even been discussed, so that’s just speculation.”
Danny Ainge also shot down a report by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, which said, the Knicks “snubbed a trade that would’ve brought Rajon Rondo to New York.” Regardless of the report’s accuracy, Ainge would likely scoff anyway to protect Rondo’s feelings.
But that can last only so long.
Ainge can deny any of this all he wants. If he’s not exploring Rondo trades, he’s making a mistake.
Rondo, 28, is young enough to still be very good when the Celtics next get good. They, ideally, should be patient with him and make him a key piece of their next team designed to win (unlike this year’s tank squad).
However, Rondo doesn’t necessarily share that patience. He can bolt in a free agency, and Boston losing him for nothing would be a major setback. Ainge must weigh the odds he can re-sign Rondo against what Rondo would fetch in a trade before next year’s trade deadline.
That’s, as Ainge said, speculation by me. It should also be reality for him.