When Boston finally pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas, it wasn’t completely out of nowhere.
But the fact that it finally got done, after three years of rumors, ultimately did come as a bit of a surprise.
The Celtics are rebuilding, and Rondo — a four-time All-Star now in his ninth season — is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Boston was going to have a difficult decision on its hands, and there’s no guarantee that Rondo would have chosen to stay, even in the unlikely event that the team was willing to offer him a max contract to do exactly that.
So, Boston got what it could, and was reportedly pleased with the deal — even though had the team been more decisive in moving Rondo a year or two earlier, the return would have been far greater than heavily protected picks and what amounted to spare parts. Still, the long-rumored parting of ways, once it was finally completed, surprised even the closest of league observers.
The timing of Rondo’s Dec. 18 trade to Dallas caught Pierce off-guard, but he knew this was a strong possibility once the Celts didn’t get in the running on Kevin Love and couldn’t find another impact player to pair with Rondo.
“I was a little bit surprised, especially because trade season starts close to All-Star or after All-Star break,” Pierce said. “Not a lot of trades happen in mid-December. You know, teams are trying to find their stride. …
“I was shocked definitely, because I thought this was a year they were going to maybe this summer find some pieces to put around him. But he had a great run in Boston, and as long as he’s happy, that’s all that matters.”
Pierce, of course, played 15 seasons in Boston, and won a championship in 2008 with Rondo by his side.
Part of the reason the Celtics made this deal when they did was so that the players they got back in return — Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson — can be moved once again before February’s trade deadline, should another team come calling with better future assets to offer. And, if the Celtics had decided that Marcus Smart (on a far less expensive contract) would be able to fill Rondo’s role in the coming seasons, the decision was a no-brainer in terms of finally moving firmly in another direction.
But while all of that may make perfect sense, it doesn’t mean that seeing Rondo go so abruptly came as any less of a surprise.