When Boston finally pulled the trigger on a Rajon Rondo trade this week, sending him to Dallas in exchange for spare parts and a heavily protected draft pick, the timing of the deal would undoubtedly be called into question by the team’s fans.
One reason it made sense was because Dec. 19 was the deadline for making a deal that would have the players involved eligible to be moved again before February’s trade deadline. But as to the actual reason why, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge seemed to intimate that Rondo’s upcoming free agency was the primary reason for deciding to finally send him out of town.
“There was definite uncertainty as to what may happen this summer,” Ainge said. “So that was a big factor.”
“We like the players that we got in the trade, but, listen, I think that with his impending free agency and uncertainty of what may happen this summer, I think that … gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal.”
That may have been part of it, but Boston knew that Rondo’s free agency would be coming for the last two seasons while trade rumors swirled. The more direct answer may be found in Jackie MacMullan’s column on Rondo over at ESPN Boston.
His current demeanor with this young, raw, vulnerable team signaled the end. He defied the wishes of his coach and GM by remaining behind in Los Angeles to celebrate his 28th birthday, rather than joining the team in Sacramento. Rondo was not scheduled to play against the Kings because he was recovering from his torn ACL and wasn’t playing in back-to-back games, but Brad Stevens expected his captain to be on the bench in street clothes supporting his team. Either Rondo didn’t fully grasp the message he sent — that he was bigger than his coach and his team — or he simply didn’t care. His uneven play these past couple of weeks suggested a disconnect that wouldn’t be repaired.
Rondo’s relationship has always been a tenuous one in Boston. The reasons are many as to why he was finally dealt, and while of course the team would rather get something in return for him before he bolts in free agency, had the franchise been more decisive where Rondo was concerned in previous seasons, the return would have been far greater than what was ultimately procured in this final separation.