Celtics stretch the point with Telfair, Rondo
Draft pick, LaFrentz, Dickau are sent to Portland in trade
NEW YORK -- On his master rankings list, Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge placed Kentucky point guard Rajon Rondo seventh overall, according to team sources. Other organizations did not assign the same value to the fast, but undersized point guard generously listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 171 pounds. That left Ainge with an unexpected opportunity last night as the NBA draft progressed. He finished the first round just the way he started it, making a deal to acquire a floor general for the future.
The Celtics traded the rights to the No. 7 pick, Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau, and cash to the Trail Blazers in exchange for Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick, finalizing the deal shortly before the draft started last night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Then, the Celtics sent a 2007 first-round pick (from the Cleveland Cavaliers) to the Suns for the draft rights to Rondo, and Brian Grant . Don't expect Grant in a Boston uniform. The Celtics will simply pay the remainder of his contract -- worth $1.8 million for next season (player option) -- and a 15 percent trade kicker. In the second round, Ainge acquired forward Leon Powe from the Denver Nuggets for a future second-round pick.
With the three deals, Ainge appeared to pull off the draft equivalent of having your cake and eating it too, with Rondo the icing.
``We've had Rondo rated very, very high in this draft," said Ainge, who started making calls in an effort to acquire Rondo when the point guard slipped past No. 15.
When asked if he would have taken him at No. 7, Ainge added: ``It was a consideration for us, but the way the draft fell, probably not. But he was a consideration.
``I don't think you can have too many [point guards]. We feel like speed is the way the game is going now. You see in Chicago and you see in Dallas all those teams playing multiple point guards at one time. And we think [Rondo] has a chance to be a special player. We wouldn't have done the deal if we didn't think that he has a chance to be the quality of a player of an Al Jefferson, a Gerald Green, those kinds of players. We think he has that kind of upside."
``If you told me at the beginning of this day we were going to be as fortunate as we were today, I would have been very happy. We addressed some needs, we got two terrific young players, and got some cap management at the same time."
Through the Portland trade, Ainge accomplished what he could not with a lottery pick, addressing positional needs and financial issues. In the Phoenix deal, Ainge acquired a point guard he became enamored with during the workout process. Boston now has plenty of young point guards to pick from, which means Ainge will not pick up the option on Orien Greene's contract at tomorrow's deadline, a team source said.
With Telfair, the Celtics gained a point guard with NBA experience who could fit in the Celtics' system. Although he served as Portland's third-string floor general last season and averaged 9.5 points per game and 3.6 assists in 24.2 minutes, Boston will give Telfair a true chance to develop. Ainge called Telfair the ``most probably ready of the point guards [who were in the draft]," noting he was the same age as most in the 2006 class.
``We love his speed," said coach Doc Rivers. ``We think with the way the game is being officiated, the small guards will have an impact. He has great vision. I think that will help Paul [Pierce] and Wally [Szczerbiak]. And Delonte [West]. And I plan to play them [Telfair and Delonte] together. I like the versatility [Telfair] brings."
Telfair matched Rivers's enthusiasm, then exceeded it.
``I'm ecstatic," said Telfair. ``I'm excited to be getting back to the East Coast and to be playing for a great team, to be on the East Coast is one thing, to play for the Boston Celtics, that's another thing. I'm honored. I was surprised. I didn't know it was coming. But now that it's done and finalized, I'm very happy. To play for a team that's running up and down, that is a better fit for me. I can penetrate and get guys open. I kind of got away from that last year."
With the 6- 10 Ratliff, the Celtics added a dominant defensive player inside. After 11 years in the NBA, Ratliff has career averages of 6.2 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks. He led the NBA with 3.7 blocks per game during the 2000-01 season. He also was voted the starting center for the East at the 2001 All-Star Game when he played for Philadelphia. He did not play in that All-Star Game due to injury, highlighting a possible concern for the Celtics since the center has not been particularly durable.
While the Celtics will miss LaFrentz for his veteran leadership and ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting, they will no longer be burdened by his weighty contract. LaFrentz has three years and $35.4 million remaining on his contract. Ratliff will make $23.4 million over the next two seasons, while Telfair will earn $1.8 million next season with a team option for 2007-08. Adding the contract numbers for LaFrentz and Dickau ($5.2 million over the next season with a 15 percent trade kicker) and comparing them with those for Ratliff and Telfair, the Celtics save approximately $13 million. But with four players from the 2004 draft class on the roster ( Jefferson, West, Tony Allen, and Telfair), Ainge will face some tough decisions when it comes to contract extensions.
``It's not like this took me by surprise," said LaFrentz. ``I've kind of been aware that this could happen sometime. Frankly, I thought the draft would be the first opportunity that I could be traded and it happened.
``My time in Boston was good. There were ups and downs. But there are ups and downs in any situation you're in. I don't feel any ill will toward anyone who's here. We'll spend the rest of the summer moving out of Boston and moving to Portland. It's pretty simple. It's not the first time I've been traded. You realize what it is and move on."