A few scattered thoughts as we close in on 36 hours until the trade deadline.
Danny Ainge’s latest proclamation that he will not move Rajon Rondo seems definitive, at least for the remainder of the regular season. We’re not privy to Ainge’s specific discussions so it’s unclear what Rondo’s current market value is, but it doesn’t appear to meet Boston’s requirements. They’ll move him only for a superstar (roughly: a top-12 player).
I’m still not convinced the Celtics are committed to a Rondo-centric rebuilding plan, especially if they’ve done a good job of keeping altercations between Rondo and his teammates in-house. We have a good read on his on-court game but the rarest of details about whatever interpersonal problems exist behind closed doors, and how the Celtics regard his leadership potential.
We may hear more Rondo trade rumors as we approach the draft and move into the free agency period. With all that cap space to facilitate trades, Ainge would be a fool not to keep all options open. To me, the idea that he shouldn’t periodically gauge the market value of his players is juvenile, even if it means — *gasp* — proposing trades that involve Rondo.
There are at least a couple of us here at the Hub who would like to see efforts made to deal some or all of the Big Three, bottom out, secure a high draft pick or two, and pursue the next championship-headlining player that way. Of course, the merits of that argument, which largely involve the notion that no superstar is coming to Boston via free agency, are academic. That’s because the Celtics are unwilling to sacrifice attendance and ratings in an era when the Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox are perpetual contenders.
If Dwight Howard is shipped to his preferred destination of Brooklyn-via-New Jersey this week, it could actually open the door to deadline moves in Boston. Under the new CBA, the Celtics have to spend 85% of the cap next year and with no major free agent prizes available, there may be an opportunity to make use of some of that coming cap space in advance, provided any incoming parts fit Boston’s long term strategy.
Speaking of which…
The Chris Wilcox injury piled on top of the Jermaine O’Neal injury should shatter any hopes of the Celtics making a deep run in the playoffs. But, of course, it won’t. And if the Celtics don’t deal off some or all of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they cannot send them down the stretch without reinforcements at the center and/or power forward spot.
But what do those reinforcements look like?
This is a real dilemma for the Celtics because Ainge has been very convincing when he says he won’t trade off future assets (think Avery Bradley and any first round draft picks) in the interest of the 2011-12 season which is not going to end with a championship no matter what he does. I can’t imagine Ainge cares about the Celtics making it to the second round of the playoffs, putting up a good final fight and losing. The players might find satisfaction in that struggle, and ownership would be enticed by the gates, but Ainge strikes me as too rational for a Hail Mary move.
So, if it’s not a complete deconstruction this week, it could be addition by leftovers, buyouts and castoffs. None of those appeals much to the fanbase, but there’s a long game going here, and it might be tough to see it from the cheap seats.