Understand this about Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge: he is like a Wall Street trader, always prowling for a deal that will make him richer. In this instance the coveted commodity isn't money but basketball talent.
So while Ainge explained away the Rajon Rondo trade rumors in part by saying that any player worth his salt will be mentioned in deals at some point during his career, take with a grain of sodium what Danny the Dealer said about not trading his point guard, whose name has been floated in a rumored deal for New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul.
Ainge's words are not ironclad confirmation that your No. 9 replica Celtics jersey won't become a throwback or throwaway.
Ainge's answer when asked whether he anticipated -- that's the key word -- trading Rondo, his two-time All-Star point guard was, "I don't anticipate that, no."
There is (Antoine Walker) wiggle room in those words. I don't anticipate winning the lottery tomorrow, but if I have a winning ticket I'm not turning it down. The same goes for Ainge dealing Rondo.
Of course he doesn't anticipate trading Rondo because right now the Celtics don't have the pieces to appease the Hornets in a Rondo-for-Paul swap, and Paul is trying to derail any deal that doesn't have him landing at Madison Square Garden alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
CP3 is oblivious to the fact that New York gutted its roster to acquire Anthony and basically can only send a combination of Spike Lee DVDs and old Isiah Thomas Christmas cards to James Dolan to New Orleans for him.
If at some point Ainge can make a deal that flips Rondo and other pieces into Chris Paul then just like his playing days he won't hesitate to take a shot, no matter how much unconditional love he professed for Rondo's game Thursday at the Celtics practice facility.
The 25-year-old Rondo is the one blue chip trading chip that Ainge has if he's going to prop open the Celtics' championship window as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen enter the last year of their contracts and the twilights of their careers. But as good a player as the sui generis Rondo is it's not clear that he is the type of point guard that can be the foundation of a championship team.
Plus, Ainge has lusted after Paul since the four-time All-Star came into the league in 2005. Before the 2005 draft Ainge tried to swing a deal where he would send Paul Pierce to Portland for the No. 3 pick, which he would have used to take Paul.
If he was willing to deal his best player and a future Hall of Famer for an unproven Paul. He will be willing to send Rondo for an in-his-prime Paul. And he should.
Rondo is a joy to watch play, but there is no way you could objectively come to the conclusion that Rondo is currently the better player than Paul. If you do then you're logic is being severely skewed by laundry. This isn't Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green.
Rondo is an All-Star point guard. Paul is a franchise player who plays point guard.
Age is a wash. Paul is 26 and turns 27 in May. Rondo is 25 and turns 26 in February.
Paul is a more capable scorer (career average of 18.1 points per game, two seasons of averaging 20-plus per game), a better perimeter shooter and can get to the rim with the same ease as Rondo, but is a better finisher. Plus, Paul has never shot worse than 81.8 percent from the free throw line, Rondo's personal Waterloo.
The idea that Rondo is a better passer than Paul is myth. Rondo may be the more ostentatious and creative passer -- some of the alley-oops he's thrown in the player-organized, lockout all-star games have to be seen to be believed -- but Paul is the one with two NBA assists crowns to his name and three seasons averaging more than 10 assists per game.
Defense and rebounding are Rondo's advantage, right? Yes and no. Paul has actually averaged more rebounds per game over the course of his career and led the league in steals on three occasions, including last year. But the eye-test says Rondo is better in those areas.
What it comes down to is fit.
Rondo's altruistic play on the court was a perfect fit for the Celtics over the last four seasons. They didn't need a point guard who wanted more shots with three Hall of Famers, Pierce, KG and Allen, already fighting over them. But with KG and to a lesser degree Allen showing signs of decline there is now a need for Rondo to become more of a consistent scoring threat if the Celtics are going to catch the Heat and Bulls in the East.
That was obvious in the Celtics' five-game defeat at the hands of the Heat. Rondo was limited by the dislocated elbow he suffered in Game 3, the one game the Celtics won in the series. That also was the only game in which the Celtics' Core Four outscored Miami's trinity of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The good teams, Lakers, Heat, etc., lay off Rondo and basically use Kobe, Dwayne Wade or LeBron as free safeties and turn the halfcourt into a 5-on-4 exercise. They would not be able to do that with Paul or even Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who has an itchy trigger finger that not even Kevin Durant can suppress.
None of this is to denigrate Rondo, one of the most unique players the league has seen. It's just the Celtics' needs may have changed, and his game really hasn't.
This works for Ainge either way. If Rondo stays, he's motivated to prove he is a better player than his nemeisis Paul, whom he has had some notable run-ins with, and expand his game. If Rondo gets dealt for Paul, Ainge gets his man.
Just don't believe Ainge wouldn't deal Rondo.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.