This could be the perfect time for the Celtics to trade Rajon Rondo.
By leading the league with 11.8 assists per game and adding 10.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest, Rondo is proving his success isn’t just a product of playing with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Even just slightly better teammates in Boston and improved health have made the Celtics point guard again look like one of the NBA’s top players.
But Rondo will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Celtics could lose him for nothing. They should at least consider selling high.
If they are, they’re not telling other teams.
Rival executives say that Ainge has been firm in his stance that Rondo will not be dealt. But many of those same executives believe that Ainge has to trade Rondo, to avoid losing him for nothing next summer.
“They’re definitely bravely saying they won’t trade him at this point,” said one general manager, who nevertheless added, “I definitely think it’s the right thing to trade him. I think Danny knows it.”
Kendrick Perkins, who still talks regularly with Rondo, says Rondo should stay and believes Rondo wants to say. For his part, Rondo has repeatedly spoken positively about the Celtics, though there was a report this offseason he asked for a trade (which he denied).
But once he starts hearing other teams’ pitches this summer, who knows what will happen? Not even Rondo, who has never been a free agent, can fully know now how he’ll respond.
Rondo wants a max contract, and he should get one. There’s a solid chance it’ll be in Boston, but how much longer is Ainge will to gamble on it?
The 4-6 Celtics are just outside playoff position in the East. If they play well until the trade deadline, that could keep Ainge believing Rondo is happy enough with the team’s direction to re-sign. But if they slide and Rondo begins to show frustration, maybe other executives will begin to a hear a different message from the Celtics general manager when they call about Rondo.