NBA AM: The Boston Celtics Are On The Rise

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Sometimes when you lose, you secure a few wins in the process

The Boston Celtics are on the brink of elimination from the playoffs, down 0-3 in their first-round matchup versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics are clearly outgunned versus the Cavaliers, a legitimate title contender, and don’t have the firepower to successfully turn the tide.

Following the Game 3 loss at home, there were plenty of dejected faces on Boston’s bench. The players, in the heat of the moment, are frustrated with losing as competitors. But taking a step back from the court, the organization as a whole and the club’s fan base should be brimming with excitement about what the future holds.

The Celtics are in still in the process of a massive rebuilding project. The team entered the 2014-15 campaign with no expectations of making a playoff appearance, let alone thoughts of reaching the second round. The feelings of frustration the players on the court feel are real, being so close to a victory if the ball took a few bounces the other direction. That’s easy to see.

However, the Celtics arrived back in the playoffs far sooner than anyone envisioned when you consider the losses the team has suffered in recent seasons.

From Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, to former All-Star Rajon Rondo, to head coach Doc Rivers, all remnants of the team’s 2008 championship run are in the rear view mirror.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has the team strongly positioned for the future. Ainge’s hire of Brad Stevens to replace Rivers was pure gold. His decision to part ways with Allen, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo at the end of the core’s run might have been emotionally tough, but it was the right call in order to prepare the franchise for the future.

Looking ahead, the Celtics are owed plenty of draft picks over the next few seasons. The team also has a talented young core far from their respective primes in Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner. In addition to future draft picks and young talent, the team has just $40 million in guaranteed salary commitments for next season, which would give the franchise the flexibility to work free agency this summer.

The Celtics may be on their way to being swept in the first round of this year’s playoffs, but make no mistake this season has been far from a failure.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle further explains Rajon Rondo situation

Faced with an aging Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks were looking to thrust themselves back into title contention as the Hall-of-Fame bound forward rounds out an illustrious career. Never an organization shy to swing for the fences, the Mavericks’ front office – headed by owner Mark Cuban – decided to trade for four-time All-Star guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics last December.

However, the move didn’t pan out as originally expected and has culminated in Rondo being shut down during the Mavericks’ current playoff run due to a back injury. The announcement of the ailment and subsequent shut down came shortly after the guard played just 10 minutes in Dallas’ loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 2. It was the latest indication of a strained relationship between Rondo and the organization, a tenure marred by clashes with coaches and inconsistent play.

Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, free to choose any organization around the league to provide his floor general skills. While Rondo hasn’t played at an elite form in nearly three seasons, there still figures to be a market for the veteran playmaker.

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle believes Rondo has played his last game in Dallas and fully expects the guard to depart once free agency officially opens.

“Well it’s highly unlikely, to be honest,” Carlisle told The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley. “I think it’s important to be truthful in these situations. But here’s the other fact: this is a guy that’s going to have a lot of free-agent options in the summer. If we wanted to get him back, we were going to be bidding against multiple other teams with a lot of cap space, and there’s going to be a big market for him. So that’s where all that stuff is at.”

At least for now, no one in the organization is point the fingers for the failed relationship with the former All-Star.

“Everybody owns it and this is all part of a franchise that’s accountable,” Carlisle said. “The one thing I love about Mark Cuban is he is the ultimate example of accountability. When he has made mistakes in the past, he jumps up and admits them. He owns them. You can’t be in this business or as long as he has, and I’ve been in it longer, and not make mistakes. Mistakes are how you learn. In the case of anything, there are risks, but there are risks worth taking. That trade was risk worth taking, we all agreed on that. Now we’re at a point where it’s time to move on where we’ve got to get Game 3 and go from there.

“I think we all did what we could do. And I think he did what he could do, so now it’s over and we got to move our attention to Game 3. It’s just the way that it went. And again we’ve got to turn the attention to the guys who are here, and the Rondo announcement was yesterday, and I’ve given you guys a mulligan here and the mulligan has passed.”

Rondo averaged 9.3 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 46 regular season appearances with the Mavericks. Prior to the trade to Dallas, Rondo averaged 8.3 points, 10.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds in 22 games with Boston.