As the dawn of a new day becomes high noon, Rajon Rondo—even at the young age of 28 years old—is an old sage among his peers.
In basketball years, eight years with one franchise is a lifetime, and in Boston, Rondo has seen it all.
From a 24-58 campaign in which he played behind the likes of Delonte West and Tony Allen to being mentored and at times supplanted by Sam Cassell, Rondo’s drafting, emerging, thriving and surviving in Boston has been a tremendous story to behold.
Yet, just like the talented triumvirate in Boston that featured franchise cornerstone Paul Pierce, the legendary Kevin Garnett and the unbelievably durable Ray Allen, all good things must come to an end.
And as the high noon in Boston settles into a breezy evening, the sun may be setting on the final seed of the Celtics’ immediate past generation.
The time has finally come for the Celtics to trade Rondo.
Kevin Love has captured the imagination of the NBA world as it was recently revealed that he has informed the brass of the Minnesota Timberwolves that he intends on becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, forgoing the $16.744 million dollars he is due for the 2015-16 season, and assuredly forgoing the opportunity to become the franchise’s next Kevin Garnett.
As we speak, Flip Saunders is no doubt fielding phone calls from at least a half-dozen of the NBA’s teams that would like to have the opportunity to acquire Love. After seeing what recently transpired with Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony, everyone knows how this movie ends.
So in Minnesota, there’s no Love lost, but it’s only a matter of time.
Meanwhile, simultaneously, the hourglass sifts on Rondo’s tenure with the only team he has known as well.
Now entering the final year of the five-year, $55 million contract he signed with the Celtics back in 2009, Rondo has quietly become one of the more complete, well-rounded and respected floor generals in the game. Yet since the time immediately preceding his signing of that contract to remain a part of the only organization he has known, Rondo has seen scores of teammates take their talents elsewhere, both on their own volition and against their will.
Tony Allen and James Posey found bigger checks elsewhere and P.J. Brown rode off into the sunset. Eddie House and Glen Davis were dealt, and eventually, Allen, Garnett and Pierce found new homes as well.
Along the way, Rondo saw Kendrick Perkins get blindsided by a trade and Doc Rivers decide he did not want to be a part of another long rebuilding project in Boston.
And after all of that—505 games, 363 wins, eight years, two coaches, one championship and countless big performances—Rondo has found himself in the peculiar position of wanting to win, but not having the pieces around him with which he can.
As Love has essentially placed himself on the open market, interestingly enough, the Celtics are said to be one of many teams that are interested in placing a bid on his services.
Among the others are the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers. The first two would be much closer to championship contention than the Celtics would be if they added Love to their current core that includes Rondo, and the latter happens to essentially be Love’s hometown team.
The results of Tuesday night’s draft lottery may go a long way toward determining where Love ends up, as teams with picks closer toward the end of the lottery may be inclined to build packages around them to bid on Love. But if he truly wants to immediately find himself on a contending team, for him, Boston may not be the correct choice.
Short of acquiring a legitimate and still-rising second superstar, it seems just a matter of time before Rondo marches into Danny Ainge’s office and delivers the same edict that Love recently did, because Rondo knows that even with two of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle, his Celtics would not be better than whatever team LeBron James plays for next season. Rondo’s Celtics would still be light-years behind the Indiana Pacers and would be no match for the Chicago Bulls or Washington Wizards.
In other words, as a 28-year-old All-NBA talent who wants to win now, Rondo’s title hopes are just like a four-door sedan on Boston’s I-93 during a 5 p.m. rush hour—stuck.
Unfortunately for Rondo, there is no Garnett or Allen available on the trade market. This is not 2007 when the Eastern Conference was still up for grabs and the competition not fierce. With him playing the role of Pierce this time around, Ainge has seemingly used up his luck and will not be able to take the same shortcut that he was able to, once upon a time.
The times have changed and for Ainge and Rondo alike, it is time for the scenery to change as well.
With the luck of the Irish and the pinging of lottery balls, Ainge’s basketball legacy may make an abrupt turn on Tuesday night. In all likelihood, his Celtics will end the night with a top-five pick in June’s draft and they will have an opportunity to select a star—a new face of the franchise.
As for their old star that isn’t really that old, after spearheading the Boston revival and experiencing the eternal glory that comes with winning a championship, Rondo will soon let it be known that he believes that the pastures elsewhere are even greener than the only uniform he has even worn.
With Love and Rondo, the Timberwolves and Celtics find their franchises at a crossroads with their young stars and Ainge finds himself in the same situation as Timberwolves general manager Flip Saunders.
As the Celtics have slowly but surely reinvented themselves since winning the NBA Finals way back in 2008, Rondo is now the only remaining piece from the team’s immediate past glory.
With head coach Brad Stevens, scores of draft picks over the next few years and loads of patience, Rondo no longer fits with this current Celtics cast. As the clock ticks toward his inevitable free agency and departure in July 2015, Ainge would be wise to explore and execute a trade for the young star while he still has leverage and some time on his side.
As the dusk approaches and Love’s edict dominates the headlines over the next few weeks, Tuesday’s draft lottery may signify yet another genesis in Boston. In the immediate future, darkness awaits, but if Rondo is dealt now and meaningful assets are exchanged for him, the night may brighten quickly.
Caught between the transition, Rondo is an old dog among spry pups. As the current day in Boston draws to a close, brighter days are on the horizon, and a proactive Rondo trade will only hasten the inevitable rebuilding.