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Rondo trade makes a lot of sense

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  March 2, 2012 08:55 AM

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Maybe Celtics president Danny Ainge is telling the truth that he has not been "shopping" guard Rajon Rondo. Maybe coach Doc Rivers is telling the truth that he and Rondo are getting along just fine. Maybe the Celtics have no intention of trading Rondo before the NBA trading deadline on March 15.

But if the Celtics are failing to at least listen - and to give every offer serious consideration - they should be.

Precisely 13 days remain before the NBA trading deadline, and we all know where the Celtics are today: smack dab in the middle of the NBA netherworld known as terminal mediocrity. Based on winning percentage, the Celtics rank exactly 15th among the 30 NBA teams. In the Eastern Conference, they are tied with the New York Knicks for the seventh/eighth playoff spots. The Celtics are getting older by the day and less compelling by the moment, only the March 15 deadline serving as a real impetus to watch them over the next 13 days.

The four most valuable commodities Ainge possesses are obvious: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rondo. Among those, Garnett has obvious value to the Celtics because he is their only expiring maximum contract player. If and when the Celtics cut ties with Garnett at the end of the season, Ainge can use Garnett's salary to at least enter the bidding on premium free agents, regardless of whether Ainge can actually sign anyone.

But the others? All are potential bargaining trips to varying degrees, including Rondo, who amasses points, rebounds and assists the way Jason Kidd once did through the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But here's the thing: Kidd has changed teams three times in his career and did not win a championship until last season, at 38, when Dirk Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA title. And that is true despite the fact that Kidd actually learned to, well, shoot, something Rondo still has not proven.

And might never.

For all of the talk about Rondo's petulance, his inability to shoot the ball is really the issue here. After shooting a dreadful 56.8 percent from the free throw line last season, he sits at just 61.3 percent this season; for his career, the number is 62.2. Now in his 18th year, Kidd has never shot as poorly from the line as Rondo has in all six of his NBA seasons, and Kidd was never a player so good that a team could build around him and win a championship.

Kidd, for that matter, turned himself into an effective shooter from 3-point land, from where Rondo is just 4 of 17 this season (23.5 percent) and has converted at a career percentage rate of just 24.2.

So now, are we to seriously believe that Rondo is a better championship centerpiece than Kidd was? Before last season, Kidd had made two career trips to the NBA Finals and won a total of two games. And one could argue that both of Kidd's trips to the last round were as much the product of a dreadful Eastern Conference as anything else.

So Rondo can be a temperamental pill. So what. This is the NBA we're talking about. For that matter, it's professional sports. Kobe Bryant is an enormous pain in the posterior, but the Los Angeles Lakers have tolerated it all these years because Bryant is a true great. Manny Ramirez was difficult and the Red Sox annually put up with him because he produced. Ditto for Randy Moss and the Patriots - right up until Moss' productivity dropped.

Then the team cut bait with him.

In defense of the Celtics and their point guard, all of this talk about Rondo's poor attitude is, as Rivers suggested, getting rather old. Furthermore, it reeks of posturing. Is Ainge really telling other clubs (or the media) that Rondo is difficult to deal with? How does that help his cause if Ainge is truly open to trading him? For the Celtics to release any negative spin on Rondo's attitude as a player would be detrimental to their own cause on multiple levels.

That is why it makes all the sense in the world for the Celtics to do what they did yesterday, to come to Rondo's defense and fortify his place as both their "best player" (Ainge) while emphasizing that treatment of the player has been "unfair" (Rivers).

With the right cast around him, Rondo obviously can thrive here. He is an excellent ball handler and distributor, and he is a positively tremendous rebounder for a player his size. At times, he can be a disruption on defense. But Rondo is not and never will be that guy around which championship teams are built, which is why Ainge absolutely, positively must consider moving him if the right deal came along.

What is that deal exactly? That is difficult to say. But the Celtics certainly were willing to trade Rondo to the New Orleans Hornets before the season in a deal that could have brought them Chris Paul, only to be thwarted by one very simple fact.

The Hornets did not want Rondo as much as they wanted some other things.

Doesn't that alone tell you plenty?

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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