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Friday, December 19, 2014

Trading Rajon Rondo Had to Happen, Still The Next Few Years are Going to Suck for the Celtics

I can't ever remember another guy in recent Boston sports history that was squarely on the trading block for longer than point guard Rajon Rondo. That's what made today seem almost like a relief since we knew this was coming literally for years: Boston traded their mercurial star and rookie forward Dwight Powell to Dallas for a package of scrubs (Brendan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson) along with a conditional first-round pick in 2015, a second-round pick in 2016 and $12.9 million trade exception.

It's easy to tear apart the underwhelming return they got for a four-time All-Star but keep in mind a couple key factors: 1) Rondo is a free agent next summer so Boston risked losing him and getting nothing back. 2) The Celtics aren't going anywhere this season and probably the next few so it didn't make much sense to try to rebuild around him, especially when they drafted his replacement (Marcus Smart) last summer in the lottery. 3) He plays his best with many talented guys around him and in the biggest games, two things that are really lacking these days for the C's.

Rondo was by far the longest tenured Celtic, he was 21st overall draft pick in 2006 and traded here from Phoenix. He helped Boston win an NBA title in his second season and also get back to the NBA Finals in 2010. The last few years frankly have been a mess since he blew out his knee two seasons ago, causing him to play only 38 games in 2012-13 and 30 games in 2013-14. He is still a triple-double machine, more so than anyone else in the league but the obvious warts in his game (namely shooting of any kind and now even free throws) make him so unique but also supremely frustrating. He currently leads the NBA in assists per game (10.8) and 7.5 rebounds per game is far and away a career-high thus far but his 8.3 points per game is the lowest since his rookie year.

He will turn 29 in February so naturally Rondo is looking for a max deal that will set him up for the rest of his life. The problem is that he's not quite that type of player anymore, or at least he never would be in Boston's current state of nothingness. Going to Dallas is about as good a situation as he could ask for: a team a couple years removed from a championship that is filled with veterans, winners and most importantly shooters and scorers. He should put up big numbers in the loaded Western Conference and everyone across the country will fall in love with his game all over again.

So where does this leave the Celtics? Rondo has always been a diva and the furthest thing from a leader, not the type of guy you want all their young players to emulate so getting him out of here shouldn't make that much of a difference (after all they were 9-14 with him playing for a contract). All they can bank on is the eight first-round picks that Boston owns in the next four years. Their two main recruiting tools for free agents-head coach Doc Rivers and Rondo-are both gone now making it nearly impossible to attract any marquee names. This speaks to a larger issue in the NBA but basically, the Celts have to win the lottery or get a very high pick (something which they are allergic to) in order to get back to relevance. These last few years have not been fun at all, I know I can barely sit through a quarter let alone an entire game and honestly, Rondo was one of the only reasons I'd ever tune in.

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