The Curious Case of Rajon Rondo

From the young point guard that carried the 2008 Boston Celtics to their 17th banner, to one of the best players in the game today, Rajon Rondo has come a long way from being a nobody. Unfortunately during the same period, the Boston Celtics took a major turn for the worse.

7 years since being on top of the world, Rondo and his Celtics currently sit 11th in the weak Eastern Conference, 23rd overall in the league. They started the ’14-’15 season strong, but couldn’t get the pivotal wins that would have set the mood of the team this year as they dropped close games against top-tier contenders.

No one is surprised though.

In ’11-’12, Danny Ainge rolled the dice with the aging core of the Celtics and let them run their last hurrah together. They pushed the eventual champions, Miami Heat, to the brink by having a 3-2 advantage before losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They lost more than an opportunity to be champions. They lost more than Ray Allen. It was a sign that the Big 3-era was over. But it also served as a preview of what Rajon Rondo could do as a franchise player.

After a miserable ’12-’13 season where the growth of Rondo had to be put on hold because of a torn ACL, Danny Ainge decided it was time for a new beginning. He traded 2 of Boston’s greatest players in exchange for a boat load of draft picks, leaving the Brooklyn Nets without an invitation to the NBA Draft for a couple of years. As they waited for Rondo’s rehabilitation and recovery, the Celtics were able to develop Avery Bradley and Jeff Green as x-factors. Danny continued drafting the best talents available for the future of one of the greatest sports franchise.

Jared Sullinger. Kelly Olynyk. James Young. Marcus Smart. Heck of a list of players to have when you’re rebuilding.

Rondo missed the first few weeks of the ’13-’14 season, letting the rookies take care of business. They weren’t one of the best teams, but their play under renowned collegiate coach from Butler, Brad Stevens, provided hope that it wouldn’t take long before the Celtics are back. In light of the moral victories by the young Boston group, Rondo was in the shadows, working hard to come back. It took 3 months into the season before he returned as the team’s 15th captain. Amid the rust that comes with a recovering player, Rondo provided flashes of brilliance.

It also provided more questions on how he fits in the team’s long-term plans.

Despite his arrogance, Rajon Rondo will make any team a championship contender. He is a die-hard, win-at-all-cost player, coming from the same mold of Larry Bird. And he wasn’t getting any younger. Coming into this season, Rondo is 28 years old and in his last year of a very valuable contract with $11mil left. His fate was already written on the wall when Ainge surprisingly picked Marcus Smart, one of the top collegiate players and, arguably, the 2014 NBA Draft’s best point guard, possibly to replace Rajon Rondo sooner rather than later.

Such a predicament for both parties.

Boston should avoid the mistake the Lakers had committed with Dwight Howard last season, and trade him for future assets. And Rondo’s greatest assist as a Celtic player would be to comply.

With the use of ESPN’s Trade Machine (http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine), here are some of suggested blockbuster deals that should make all parties “winners:”

1. Los Angeles Lakers offer Steve Nash’s expiring contract, Jordan Clarkson and 2015 1st Round Pick from PHX
(http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=kljaqdp)

  • It’s well known that Rondo loves the City of Angels. He has a house in LA, stays and trains during the offseason. For the Lakers, Lin’s lackluster play just proved what everyone inside the Houston Rockets was talking about – sometimes, he plays for the other team. Fortunately, the Lakers still hold Nash’s expiring contract, an asset that would give Boston more cap space in the upcoming free agency in 2015. Rondo is also an expiring contract, so LA has to include Jordan Clarkson, who is turning out to be a good young combo-guard, and comes in with a very cheap price tag. The only problem here is the draft pick included. If that pick falls out of the top 5, Lakers (or any team who receives the pick) would lose that opportunity instantly to Phoenix. If Rajon Rondo dons the Lakers jersey, Boston Celtics would still need to hope that their dismal season continues.

2. Sacramento Kings offer both Derrick Williams’ expiring contract and Ben McLemore (http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=kobvgsa)

  • The Sacramento Kings are looking to end their playoff drought with a strong start to the season behind Demarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. If they hope to cement their place in the postseason, they need another player to help them do so. Luckily, Rajon Rondo is a good friend of Rudy Gay. Darren Collison wouldn’t like to hear another superstar player taking his minutes in the point guard spot. I don’t blame him as he’s averaging 16 pts and 7 ast per game, but he shouldn’t blame the Kings trying to acquire Rondo. It’s a great year to coach the Sacramento Kings. Congratulations, Mike Malone.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder offer Reggie Jackson and Kendrick Perkins’ expiring contract
(http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=n5btwas)

  • I’m sure Rajon misses his good friend, Perkins, very much. Unfortunately, if there’s any chance that he would like to compete again in the highest level, it’s going to take a Kendrick trade again. If the opportunity presents itself for OKC, they shouldn’t blink twice on getting this deal done. Having Rondo would allow Westbrook back in his natural position, the 2-spot, and Rajon would continue to balance the number of shots for both Russell and Kevin Durant. No more iso plays. For Boston, they get another young guard in Reggie Jackson and clear up cap space thanks to Perkins’ expiring contract. What a rude homecoming for big Perk, eh?

4. Houston Rockets offer Jason Terry’s expiring contract and Kostas Papanikolaou
(http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=kubsz2d)

  • Houston has been looking for their 3rd superstar since the offseason, after failing to get Chris Bosh away from Miami. Enter Rajon Rondo. Houston’s depth at the guard spot is filled with young, unexperienced players (aside Harden and Beverley) in Troy Daniels, Nick Johnson, and Canaan. It’s going to be hard to face off against one of the rising teams in the league today. Boston gets another big man to support Olynyk, Sullinger, and Jeff Green. Papanikolaou was fantastic during the FIBA World Cup, so Boston should be very excited having him on board.

5. Detroit Pistons offer Brandon Jennings and Jonas Jerebko’s expiring contract
(http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=klm94ck)

  • Consider a long shot, Rondo is a small upgrade from Brandon Jennings. Still an upgrade though. Rondo has been one of the game’s best pick and roll players that could essentially develop Drummond to become more multi-dimensional in terms of playing the center position. He also considers Josh Smith, his former AAU team, one of his good friends. Finally, they have someone to tell Smith to stop settling on the long balls. Boston gets another combo guard that is locked in for 2 years, and Jonas Jerebko could be a great backup for Mr. Jeff Green.

As presented above, there are some few good moves for Boston to make. For Rondo, he has to accept that his time with Boston is over. He has been very fortunate to be part of a storied franchise, and helping them in so many ways.

But it’s over.
It’s time to create a new story.

For Rondo, he again needs to make a major turn along the way for the best.

–  David Gamboa
Facebook.com/reydavidgamboa

Twitter.com/reydavidgamboa

(image from: http://vickmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/celtics-rajon-rondo.jpg)

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