Last night Yahoo reported the Boston Celtics were engaged in “serious” discussions about point guard Rajon Rondo. Trade season officially opened on Dec. 15 with teams now able to move contracts signed this past summer, and Rondo is one of the biggest names to watch. CBS Sports’ Ken Berger is now reporting that Rondo would be “open” to re-signing with the Mavs or Rockets if he were traded to those Texas contenders.
The Celtics are in full-on rebuild mode, something Rondo isn’t particularly enthralled with after competing for titles with the previous Boston era of superstars, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
There are a number of factors that have limited what NBA teams are willing to deal the Celtics in exchange for the mercurial point guard, but the largest stems from his unrestricted free agency this summer after the mutual decision not to re-up with Boston before the Oct. 31 deadline.
That’s why the news by way of NBA Insider Ken Berger at CBS Sports Rondo might re-sign with a pair of Western Conference contenders could throw a wrench in the conference’s playoff race:
With Celtics president Danny Ainge seriously engaging several teams on Rondo trade scenarios, a league source told CBSSports.com Thursday that the point guard is open to re-signing with at least two of them — the Mavericks and Rockets.
Other teams, including the Lakers and Knicks, have been on the periphery of talks. But Ainge is unlikely to deal Rondo within the conference, much less within the division. As for the Lakers, who can offer a top-five protected pick in 2015 and Steve Nash’s $9.7 million expiring contract (paid mostly by insurance), they are viewed as more of an option for Rondo in free agency next summer if he is not traded by the Feb. 19 deadline.
Given Rondo’s looming unrestricted free agency, any deal would have to come with assurances that he’d be willing to re-sign with his new team. While those discussions have yet to take place with agent Bill Duffy since no trade agreement is in place, a person familiar with Rondo’s thinking said the possibility of competing for championships in Dallas or Houston intrigues him.
As mentioned last night, there were conflicting messages over the summer about Rondo’s eagerness to stay in the green and white. First came reports he wanted out, but Rondo and general manager, Ainge, both reiterated they want him in a Celtics jersey over the long-haul with Rondo eyeing a max deal this summer.
But if any deal to move Rondo is to happen, as Berger notes, he’ll have to agree on re-signing with the team that eventually lands him. Without that assurance, a team would just be taking a flier on him in the hopes a half-season or so would convince him to sign long-term this summer as an unrestricted free agent.
The Celtics point guard was understandably annoyed about the swirling rumors after last night’s 102-89 win over the Magic.
“How many times do you want me to say it? Rondo said. “My thoughts and my opinions as far as the organization haven’t changed.”
While Berger largely skirts the issues in his piece, there are the questions about whether Rondo is really the top-flight point guard despite four all-star births between 2010-2013. He suffered a torn ACL in early 2013 against the Heat, and then a metacarpal fracture to begin this year. Part of the reason Ainge didn’t offer him a max extension before the deadline was to make sure he was still the same player who helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2008 and the NBA Finals again in 2010.
So far this season, Rondo is back to his pass-first ways. He’s leading the league with 10.8 assists per game, and over 47 percent of his teammate’s baskets come on a Rondo assist when he’s on the floor, the second-highest — behind John Wall (47.4 percent) — in the Association. He creates the most points with an assist of anyone in the NBA, per NBA.com. He’s also — as Berger writes — got the highest defensive rebounding percentage in the league among the NBA’s guards (22.3 percent, per Basketball-Reference).
But he can’t shoot a lick, and that has to scare some teams away, though presumably not Dallas, who has plenty of firepower already with Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki all capable of knocking down open jumpers.
Houston, as Berger again notes, is less likely since a move to acquire Rondo, with the tacit understanding he’d re-sign a long-term deal — would relegate blossoming point guard Patrick Beverley back to the bench. We’re not sure the Rockets want to keep their perimeter defensive specialist off the court if they can help it.
Boston still has a pair of picks coming from Brooklyn after dealing KG and Pierce, and the Rockets have already said they’re using the $8.4 million trade exception they have as part of dealing Jeremy Lin to Los Angeles. They have to do so before midnight tomorrow if they hope to keep open the chance to then re-trade that player before the Feb. 19 deadline.
The Rondo talks are boiling now, and a move involving him might happen in the next day. Barring that, Houston will do something before tomorrow night to keep their options open on whomever they acquire with that trade exception.
A reminder, it’s not even Christmas yet, but NBA executives are already wheeling and dealing for an early present to fans.
Will Rondo end up in Dallas?
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