We had the Melo-Drama, the LeBron sweepstakes, the Dwight-mare and the Love Affair.
Figuring out which superstar players are going to leave their current team and test the waters of free agency or force their way out of town in a trade is the newest game in the NBA. Players have all the power. It is so easy for them to pick up and leave when they are ready and teams are virtually helpless to stop them. This is why the NBA offseason can be, and is, so intriguing.
So who is next?
Why it is none other than Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
The rumors of Rajon Rondo leaving Boston have been around for several years now. There were always rumors that he did not quite get along with teammates and, as the lone youngster on a veteran team, was the most movable of the Celtics’ core players. That was when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were still around and championships were a very clear and achievable goal.
The trade talks have only increased since the Celtics started their rebuild in trading Garnett and Pierce to the Nets a season ago. Rondo it seemed would not be fit for a rebuilding project, not as one of the budding young point guards in the league and due for a possible max contract. While Rondo was fantastic alongside those championship-contending teams, he remains unproven as a stand-alone star.
The rumors got churned up again during the long holiday break. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported Rondo had told Celtics brass that he wanted off the rebuild train. It was a very unofficial report (it occurred during an unaired segment of Around the Horn), and Rondo and his representatives denied it vehemently:
Spokeswoman for Rajon Rondo's agent, Bill Duffy, said both men deny that Celtics guard has demanded a trade.
— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) September 1, 2014
The question remains whether Rondo is a player a franchise can build around. That is a question the Celtics seem constantly to be answering.
And he is still coming off the torn ACL — he played in only 30 games last season averaging 11.7 points and 9.8 assists per game. They were not too far off Rondo’s numbers with the big players on the Celtics before.
The going thought is that Rondo is slowly being pushed out. Boston has Avery Bradley, and the team drafted Marcus Smart in last year’s draft. Those are two combo guards that may more naturally fit at point guard but can play either guard position. There will be a minutes squeeze for one. And Bradley just signed an extension.
The Celtics also seem in for another long season with a lot of losing. Rondo is known for having a salty disposition and has won pretty much his entire career. Rondo is set to become a free agent at season’s end and already appears to have several suitors lining up to try and get him (the Knicks and Lakers are clearing cap space among others to make that kind of big move).
If Rondo were to ask out, now is the time to do it. He has the most leverage right now to control where he wants to go and to force a trade before the Celtics lose him for nothing.
There is one difference to the latest free agents to force a trade though. Rondo has a ring. He has a lot of good memories and a lot of championship memories with the franchise even if they are no longer at that level and that team is largely gone. Rondo would be leaving a team that really took a chance on him to lead a veteran squad to a championship as a rookie and young player. Boston is where he blossomed and was the perfect situation for him (despite all the clashes that may have come afterward under the pressure of winning).
Of course, all good things do not last forever.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has made it clear he wants Rondo to be part of the Celtics’ future. That seems unlikely to change for the moment. And ultimately, the Celtics hold the cards to decide whether to make a deal or not.
Of course, Rondo has a power play here too. And no team can afford to lose a star for nothing without going further into the tank. Boston fans are getting set for Year Two of a major rebuild. It would be tough to head even further down the hole.
So the Celtics are next up in the spotlight of superstars possibly looking for a way out.
Good luck, Boston.