Retaining Rondo: A Comprehensive Examination

The rumours never end. Ever. Rajon Rondo has been the point guard of the Boston Celtics since 2006, and has repeatedly attracted trade speculation over the bulk of his career. And yet, here he is, a rarity in the league as a player who has remained with the same team since his rookie year, eight years on.

Then you realise why the rumours have been around for so long. To put it simply, he has immense talent, an NBA championship, and plays the game to make his teammates better by sharing the ball – an uncommon trait for point guards in the NBA. Then when you dig even further, you are reminded of his ability to step up his game in the postseason, of his drive to win at all costs, to sacrifice life and limb (literally) for his team. Of course other teams would be interested, there’s no doubt about that.

When you put all of this together, you really wonder why ‘experts’ are so keen to offload a player of this calibre. Allow me to analyse exactly why the captain of the most storied franchise in the game will remain in Boston not only for this season, but long enough to see that number 9 hanging in the rafters next to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.


The Mutual Attraction

In any long-term relationship, both parties need to remain interested and enthusiastic about one another. Firstly, Rajon himself has repeatedly stated that he loves the Celtics, the city of Boston and the fans that occupy it. Here are some of his more recent quotes;

“The fans, the people here make me want to stay,” Rondo said at that time. “The organization has been great. I can’t say enough about Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) and Wyc (Grousbeck who co-owns the team), but when I walk down the street the fans have embraced me from Day One. These people know the game; you can’t fool them. The love I get is kind of overwhelming. I want to stay here.”

“Regardless of what’s going on with the season, my position hasn’t changed,” Rondo said on Wednesday. “I love being a Celtic.”

It’s always encouraging when the player loves the team he plays for, however the feelings need to be shared by those running the organisation too. When the owner, GM and coach all like what you bring to the table, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that the organisation would like to see you stick around.

The relationship between coach Stevens and captain Rondo is as strong as any Rondo has had with any coach. Mostly it seems as though the reports of Rondo being hard to coach are blown way out of proportion, but we’ll get to that later. NBA.com’s David Aldridge outlined the kind of rapport shared by the duo before the season began, exploring Rondo’s appreciation for how Stevens is the most positive coach he’s had in his entire career, and the values of playing hard and the will to win are shared between the pair. Having analytical minds and confidence in your star player to execute the plays drawn up in timeouts, are attributes any coach would love to have in their point guard.


The Business

With salary cap restrictions, pending free agency, and a team in rebuild mode, the final year of Rondo’s contract was always going to draw attention from reporters. While we won’t delve too far into the financial side of basketball, it actually makes sense to wait until the end of the season to re-sign him.

Due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, Boston is unable to offer a five-year extension to Rondo until the end of the season. The Celtics are the only team able to offer a contract with the length of 5 years as they hold Rajon’s Bird Rights. In addition, the team can’t offer anywhere near the same amount of (possibly maximum) money until season’s end as well. Also in the Celtics’ favour is their ability to offer higher increments of pay per season than other teams once free agency does hit. It appears both Danny and Rondo are on the same page already, when Ainge was quoted on media day agreeing that a player set to reach his prime is probably worth the big dollars:

“I think a four-time All-Star by the time he’s [28] years old would qualify for max based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace,” Ainge said. “If I were Rajon and I were Rajon’s agent, I would definitely say that.”

While a maximum contract may sound a bit steep to Rondo critics, there is one very important thing to remember where the salary cap is concerned. The NBA is set to triple their national TV revenue in their next television rights deal for the season beginning 2016-17. While there is still this season and next to get through, this deal is expected to increase team salary caps by $25.8 million per year.

What this means for Rondo is that a maximum contract signed next year, won’t actually hurt the team’s cap room nearly as much after the first season. To put it simply, the current salary cap’s maximum will pay Rajon handsomely for the next five years, but it won’t destroy the Celtics’ long-term spending on other pieces. The percentage of his contract next to the salary cap will actually be comparable to his current team-friendly deal.


The Drawcard

There are many stars in the NBA, but how many of those play alongside someone who could actually make them even better? Building a roster that is strong right to the end of the bench is becoming increasingly important to building a championship team. Rondo is a distributor by nature, and has proven his ability to put the ball to his teammates that amplify their strengths. So the question is; why would you trade someone that can make their teammates better, and be appealing to potential star recruits?

One of the knocks on Rondo was that his productivity would drop off once his star teammates in Pierce, Garnett and Allen left. Overall his statistics point to someone that has remained just as effective in scoring and passing, while his rebounding numbers have actually improved since the departures of the Big Three. His maturity levels have increased, and he seems to be excelling as a leader since their departures.

If anything, he has become more of a focal point on offense, and finally plays with teammates young enough to play the running game he has always craved. Last season the Celtics ranked 12th for possessions per game while posting 96.2 points. Through this year, they rank 8th in the league for possessions while posting 104.6 points – good enough for 6th in the league. A fit Rondo is showcasing how easily he can run an offense that plays his style of run-and-gun basketball.

From an individual perspective, Rondo’s performance through 6 games this year has yielded averages of 10.8 points, a league-leading 11.3 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. The man is almost averaging a triple-double. While it’s a small sample, not many players in the league can point to those numbers.

Looking into the history books, Rondo has demonstrated that he can take his game to another level once the playoffs hit. First there was holding the keys to the 2008 championship team (of course), but it was over the next few years he really began to shine. The 2009 series against the Bulls was a coming out party for Rondo, playing a starring role in the 7 game series. He almost single-handedly took his team of stars to the championship in 2010 with the way he played in the Finals, and he played out the series against Miami in 2011 despite a dislocated elbow. Then in 2012, he helped take the soon-to-be champion Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, including that 44-point game that almost ripped Miami’s heart out.

He has proven to the league that he is capable of stepping up when it matters most in the postseason, something his contemporaries have no doubt noticed, but also respected immensely. Keeping in mind that the Celtics are primed to make a charge at the 2015 offseason, in both free agency and trades, Rondo is a pretty handy individual to help sell the Boston Celtics franchise to prospective players.


The Silencing of Detractors

Where to begin? Rondo is in the final year of a contract, which makes him an easy target for trade speculation, even by his standards. We often see players step up their games when playing for another contract, then drastically dropping off in the following season. Danny Ainge summarises where Rondo would fit into this topic:

“I don’t think that’s what drives Rajon. I think that he’s motivated because he didn’t play to his standards coming off the knee injury. He doesn’t like to not be good. He doesn’t like not being considered one of the best point guards in the game. I think that’s what drives him, that’s what motivates him, and that’s what drove him to hard work this summer.”

Even if the C’s were looking to offload Rondo, the issue of placing a value on such a unique player opens up a whole new can of worms. People say he’s a hard individual to deal with, which would automatically be used against the Celtics in any negotiations to trade for anyone of equal talent – especially when the team is taking a risk to convince him to stay if he’s only been there for half a season. I believe a trade is even more unlikely now than it was at any point last year.

The perception that Rondo is a tough personality to deal with is unfounded. He’s the ultimate competitor who loves to win, and I can only recall one occasion in his entire career where there has ever been any issues with teammates. That teammate happened to be Ray Allen, who was more upset with Doc Rivers’ decision to put the ball in Rondo’s hands more than Rondo as a person. Kobe Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors to ever play in the NBA, has had his fair share of issues with teammates – but I don’t see anyone kicking him out of LA, and he’s had several more indiscretions than Rondo ever will. I’m not comparing the two from a basketball level, as Rondo is more a likely to form a star duo, but it’s a good comparison when it comes to competitive personalities.

If anything I would say Rondo is one of the more loyal individuals when it comes to his teammates, when you consider his lasting friendships with past Celtics such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Keyon Dooling, Jason Terry and Kendrick Perkins, just to name a few. With these players now all departed, Rajon can seek advice from his former teammates about parting from such a great place. If he values Kendrick Perkins’ guidance, then we shouldn’t be worried about the number 9 leaving any time soon

“I think it’s a great place for him. I think he wants to stay here. We talk on the regular, and I think he should stay,” said Perkins. “If I was him, I’d stay.”

The current roster is shaped by a strong guard rotation of Rondo, Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart. On draft night, many people began pointing at Boston’s selection of Smart as the end of Rondo’s time in a green uniform. While Smart has already shown his potential as a capable player, it would actually seem that these three guards could co-exist with one another as the C’s build a deep roster. Who’s to say the Celtics won’t look to offload one of Bradley or Smart if the right deal presents itself? It’s never nice to think about, but there is always the possibility.

Lastly, our friend John from Red’s Army made a great point about a potential Rondo trade at this season’s deadline:

“I don’t think Danny Ainge is going to lesson, lower his price, I don’t think he wants to become the GM that becomes known as the guy who lowers his price when his back’s against the wall.”


The Final Word

All dialogue from both Rajon and the Celtics organisation appears to be heading to a contract extension in the summer of 2015. Again, Danny Ainge has prepared for the Celtics to make a full tilt at this year’s free agency, and has a ridiculous amount of young players and draft picks at his disposal via trades, to get this team back to the top end of the Eastern conference. If Boston is looking to attract big names to the city next year, having a player as special as Rondo waiting to play alongside you has to make the team more appealing. Four-time All Stars and NBA champions don’t grow on trees, trading away a player at the peak of his powers doesn’t make sense to me.

Rajon Rondo is a loyal person, and I have no doubt he wants to become a Celtic for life. He is the captain of the team for a reason. He is respected right around the league, and I believe he is a key component to bringing banner 18 to the city of Boston. Thank you for reading.

- Michael Tarran

(@mickyt34)

All You Need Is Love

If you’re a fan of the NBA, you would be well aware of Kevin Love’s pending free agency in the summer of 2015. If you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics, you may also be aware the superstar power forward just spent the entire weekend in the city of Boston.

 

Artwork by CDU's own @lil_kaino

Artwork by CDU’s own @lil_kaino

With reports that Love wants out of Minnesota as soon as possible and won’t re-sign with the team next year, it’s hard not to get excited at the realistic possibility of K-Love teaming up with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.

 

Yes, every team should be targeting such a talent. A rebounding machine, talented shooter and a fierce competitor, Love will draw a huge asking price to pry him away from the Timberwolves. This is where the Celtics have the upper hand on almost every other franchise in the league.

 

Danny Ainge has been stockpiling away those picks for something big, and this could definitely be what we have all been waiting for. Holding pick #6 in this year’s draft, the top prospects are out of our grasp, so it makes a lot of sense to trade away the draft selection along with one of our many other assets to convince the Timberwolves to play along and bring Kevin Love to the city of Boston.

 

It’s worth revisiting quotes from 2014’s All-Star weekend, when Love shared his opinion of the 2013/14 version of the C’s

“I’ve never really spent much time in Boston. I don’t know it too well,” he said. “But I think as far as playing there, we love competing against those guys. I think they have a great coach and they have a ton of youngsters that are up-and-comers.

“Boston is a great city. I’m sure free agents would love to go there, especially with [Brad] Stevens as a coach. He’s a guy that can win basketball games. He gets guys to play for him. They’ve been having good success there, even in his first year, and he has a lot of young players. The coach has a lot to do with it, but yeah, Boston is a great place.”

 

Over the weekend, Love was spotted in a few establishments that would have opened his eyes to the city’s proud sporting culture. Across the road from TD Garden, Love enjoyed a dinner at The Greatest Sports Bar, and a conversation with a co-owner who told The Boston Globe

“It went great,” Fairweather told the Globe on Sunday. “The kid is a real gentleman. I think he has a real appreciation with the Celtics’ history and tradition.”

 

The most stirring sighting however, was left to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, where Captain Rondo and Kevin Love were snapped having a laugh together (courtesy of @BigDub on Twitter). The combination of Rondo dropping dimes and Love cleaning the glass is the stuff championship-calibre teams can be built on. It’s hard not to get carried away.

 

However Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations for the T-Wolves, tried his best to put a wet blanket over the entire weekend

“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders told reporters in Minneapolis on Sunday. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”

With regard to the teams that are interested in Love, Saunders said, “I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams. Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”

 

This is the sort of thing you expect to hear from a team hoping to keep their star player, as Celtics fans this is something I would choose to overlook and instead believe we have a good chance of landing the 25-year-old from UCLA. It has also been reported that Love will speak to former UCLA and Celtic Bill Walton about the experience of playing for the Boston faithful. Draft night cannot come quickly enough.

 

Future first-round draft picks, playoff-calibre players, a trade exception, and expiring contracts are all part of Ainge’s arsenal right now. While trades cannot be done until draft night, the sign that Love is interested in the city of Boston makes it really hard for Celtics fans not to get their hopes up. After all, Love is all you need.

 

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Offseason Dreaming: Gortat In Green

Although the Celtics season of mediocrity isn’t quite over yet, the remaining 7 games can’t come quickly enough in what has been a long 82-game stand. With this in mind, it’s never too early to look towards the period in June and July this year where Danny Ainge is expected to be very active.

Polish center Marcin Gortat displayed his affections for the C’s in yesterday’s game against the Wizards in DC, which grabbed my attention as a fan excitedly looking towards the offseason.

Early in the contest, Rondo displayed his signature behind-the-back fake pass that left Gortat with his feet nailed to the floor. Down the other end, Trevor Booker attempted a pair of free throws while Rondo and Gortat shared a laugh over the previous play. This may not seem like much, but there is definitely a mutual respect between the pair, as the Polish Hammer took to Twitter after the game to illustrate this point:

As the 3rd quarter wound down with Jeff Green getting ready to sink some free throws, the Celtics players huddled round for a quick discussion, only to be joined by a certain #4 in a Wizards uniform. It was another mischievous act in yesterday’s game, which was literally embraced by Rondo by having his arm around Gortat as well.

Admittedly, these are only two small things that really don’t point to much on their own. Last year in the offseason, Brandon Bass and Gortat worked out together. The former Orlando Magic teammates clearly share a good relationship to still be catching up and playing ball together, which could work well in any recruitment pitches the Celtics may put to the center.

Becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, Gortat is earning $7.27 million this year and could demand a similar figure on the open market. While the Wizards are obviously eager to re-sign him, with Marc Stein reporting his signature ‘as a top priority’ for Washington, he has the choice of signing with any team around the league.

The Celtics desperately need a quality center on their roster moving forward, if the Omer Asik trade rumours were anything to go by in December last year. At 30 years of age, Gortat has plenty of good years left in the NBA.

Putting together mutual respect between Gortat and the Captain of the Celtics, his relationship with former teammate Bass, his status as an unrestricted free agent and the Celtics with a plethora of picks and money to make it happen, here’s hoping that fun he had with the Celtics yesterday is the start of something much bigger.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

What is the best path for a Celtics rebuild?

With the trade deadline approaching, we take a look at the hard decisions in the week ahead for Danny Ainge and what path he may take for a rebuilding Celtics squad.

Since the big trade in the off-season, debate swept across Celtic nation around how this great franchise can get back to where it belongs: contending, year in year out.  Some think that the best path to rebuild is to completely bottom out, some say that free agency may be the key, whilst others think that going all in by trading away all their chips is the path to glory.

Each method has their own pros and cons, read on as we look through the options in detail.

Rebuilding through the draft

This lengthy method involves trading off most, if not all veterans (Rondo, Green, Bass, etc) whilst keeping young talent.  This would let the team completely bottom out and contend for consecutive top picks.  Philadelphia have gone this exact route this season, setting the tone by trading their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a rookie (Nerlens Noel) who is coming off ACL surgery and has yet to play a single minute in the league.

okc_durant_westbrook_ibaka_harden

Pros: If the correct players are drafted, this could potentially set a franchise up for long-term success.  There have been some teams over the years that have hit home runs with their picks.  Oklahoma City, as previously discussed, is the first team to come to mind – besides the obvious choice of drafting a transcendent talent in Kevin Durant, they followed this pick up the next year by selecting both Russell Westbrook (4th pick) and Serge Ibaka (24th pick). They then lucked out again the following year by getting James Harden with the 3rd pick.  Although Harden was traded due to financial reasons, they were still able to convert him into Jeremy Lamb, who is starting to break out for them in a solid bench role, and the rights to draft Steven Adams – who looks to be the starting centre of the future once they can find someone who will take Perk’s terrible contract on.

Portland and Golden State are two other great examples of how drafting well can set a franchise up, with both teams figured to be major players in the Wild West in the foreseeable future with young cores.

Cons: For every franchise that has successfully built through the draft, there are a few others that have not fared as well.  Some teams draft for need, possibly leaving the better player on the board (Sam Bowie/Portland anyone?), sometimes players just don’t pan out as people thought they would, and sometimes teams without any veteran presence can just be too young and lose their way.  Cleveland could check all the boxes here.  The Cavs have had a staggering four top-4 picks in the past 3 years, including two number 1 picks (not to mention the 1st pick to take LeBron back in 2003).  To put that in perspective, the Celtics have had the 1st pick once (1950), and they have only selected with the 2nd pick once (’86 – but that is too sad a story to tell).

Cleveland currently find themselves stuck in no man’s land; they want to compete in order for their young superstar in Kyrie to want to stay (cough *LeBron* cough).  If they prove incapable of shaping the roster up, they could see Kyrie bolt in free agency, taking them once again back to square 1, which is exactly how/why LeBron left the Cavs.

Clear cap space, sign free agents

From the in-season trades that Danny has executed so far, this is something that could definitely be on the cards.  The goal here is to trade/position contracts so that they can all expire within the same year, opening up enough space to sign big-time free agents.  The LA Lakers are doing just that this year – with only Kobe and Nash (likely to retire) on the books for next season.

heat_lebron_wade

Pros: Two words – Miami Heat.  No one was able to do what Miami has done – completely strip their roster down to nothing but their own all-star (Wade) + some minimum wage players, sign an All-Star who is also the best player in the game (I felt dirty saying that, but, fair’s fair).  Pat Riley’s master plan worked to perfection here and Miami are currently the 2-time reigning champions with a good shot at a 3-peat.

Cons: There are only a handful of teams that could get away with trying/executing this plan.  The Lakers will always attract the free agents (except Dwight – HA!) due to the celebrity lifestyle and warm climate. Miami was attractive to LeBron because he wanted to team up with Wade, and, let’s face it, Cleveland isn’t exactly a desired location.  New York was always a destination that players wanted to go to, but, this line of thinking backfired on them in the summer of ’10 as they cleared their books in anticipation of signing LeBron – how did that work out for them?  LeBron bolted for Miami, left New York scrambling to sign somebody, and made the worst contract in the league 4 years later with Amare locked up for 5 years/$100 million without insurance for his already shaky knees, whoops.  Up until this day, New York are in salary cap hell, and they are currently not even in the playoffs picture in the pathetic East.

Go all in!

This is something that us Celtics fans are quite familiar with.  Build up a boatload of assets (including expiring contracts, draft picks, and solid young players) and trade them all in for a star or two. The Celtics are once again, in prime position to do something like this in the upcoming year.

2008_wallpaper_widescreen_BannerRaise_19201080

Pros: Banner #17.  The 2006/07 season is very similar to the current season with great young players, an All-Star entering his prime, and the team armed with multiple draft picks.  The Celtics were able to flip these into two Hall of Famers (on the wrong side of 30) whilst keeping our other main pieces in tact and the results were pure bliss.  Miami’s 2006 championship team achieved the same by trading their chips for Shaq, followed by Antoine Walker.

Cons: It is up to the GM to ensure the players that they are receiving fit the personnel of the team and the coaching style.  There’s no point in getting a big name player just for the sake of it.  Both New York Teams have suffered as the Knicks traded half of their team, including multiple picks just to land Melo, leaving them with an imbalanced roster.  This unfortunately now leaves them in a terrible situation – losing record, salary cap hell, and this years’s pick is owned by Denver in the Melo deal, who incidentally is coming up to free agency after this season.

Brooklyn finds itself in a similar situation; although their team is more balanced, they are an aging, injury-prone team and much like New York, they mortgaged their future for a small window for the title.  Once a team trades away multiple future firsts, and if things don’t work out –much like Brooklyn and New York– it could set up a vicious cycle where these teams keep trying to dig themselves out of a hole by trading more of their assets (young players/draft picks) for immediate help, a dangerous game to play (reference: New York in the past 13 years).

All in all, I believe the Celtics just have too many assets to just rebuild through the draft and wait for these young players to mature.  Even the greats needed help, with Cleveland gutting their team to get LeBron, only for him to leave. Tim Duncan was drafted by a San Antonio squad that already had David Robinson, Sean Elliot and Avery Johnson on their roster.  If Ainge can trade some of the vets that don’t figure to be in the long term plan such as Bass, Green, Hump (and hopefully Wallace), the Celtics will be in great shape to land a star through the draft to put next to Rondo and our budding star Sullinger – leaving the team with enough assets to get further help down the line.

I think the only way Danny goes all in with his chips is if we land a pick outside the top 5, and are unable to get one of the coveted top players in the draft this year.  This is very dependant on who is available, and how that talent will fit in with the remaining personnel, but Danny knows talent. Back in 2006, Ainge had the chance to trade for Allen Iverson who was still in his peak, but ultimately decided against it due to the price tag, and how he would have fit with Pierce, which in hindsight, was the smart move.

I believe Danny will make some moves to clear off some future salary, namely Bass and Green as he is reportedly making a run for the 2015 free agency field.  It’s likely he makes the team worse in the short term without trading any of the future core, tries to collect a top 5 pick, and then either attempts to trade for another star, or tries to sign one with the lure of Rondo + young stars.

How do you think the trade deadline will go down?  Who do you think Ainge will trade, if anyone at all?

- Dave @big_dave31

The Bus To Banner 18

Danny Ainge is a smart man. He is always a few steps ahead of other GMs around the league. For this reason, all Celtics fans should have total confidence in where he is taking this team.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen moves made to create cap space and gather even more draft picks, leading to the departures of Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks. All signs are pointing to the future, as Ainge is shaping the roster to be prepared for the 2014 offseason and beyond.

“We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of good positive things that are happening with our team and a lot of good development with a lot of our young guys. We have some good veteran guys who have set great examples, hard-workers for our young guys. And I feel like we’re figuring out who we want on the bus.” – ESPN

Who will be on the bus that leads this team back up the conference standings and all the way to banner 18?

On The Bus

Rajon Rondo

Put all trade rumours aside, this man is going nowhere. The newly appointed Captain of the Celtics has proven over his rehabilitation that he is fully committed to Boston. He put in countless hours with the trainers, travelled with the team to support his teammates and be the leader, and was also recognised for his community work in the month of December.

Even putting all of this aside, Rondo is an All-Star point guard determined to find his open teammates rather than shoot the ball. This calibre of point guard is becoming more important and harder to find in the NBA, and Danny Ainge would only consider moving Rondo if they received a star of the game in return.

Rondo’s existing contract will be up after the 2014/15 season, but there are already whispers of a contract extension for Mr. Triple Double in the wake of his return to the floor. Expect #9 to be the co-pilot to Coach Stevens through this period.

Jared Sullinger

It’s hard to believe the big man is only in his second season. It’s even harder to believe how well he has been playing when he had an interrupted preseason as he recovered from back surgery. All signs point to continous improvement. Sully has shown great character to put aside an offseason indiscretion that could have easily derailed many athletes, and his commitment to keep improving should see Sullinger remain in green for a long time.

Phil Pressey

The question Celtic fans keep asking is: How did this guy go undrafted? The calming influence Pressey plays with shows maturity beyond his rookie status, and the good news is he will only improve with more experience. Having great court vision allows Pressey to find his open teammates, while his ability to dish out on-target assists is reminiscent of another point guard on this roster.

A contract that could see him with the Celtics for three seasons on low money indicate the confidence Ainge showed in Pressey from the outset, and after trading away Jordan Crawford to give him more minutes, all signs point to Pressey being on the bus for the future as a great foil to Rondo.

Kelly Olynyk

Summer League. This is where rookies can showcase their potential, and Olynyk was better than all of his teammates and opponents in the 2013 Summer League. As is the case with many big men finding their way in the NBA, there have been growing pains as Olynyk’s physicality and rebounding ability have come into question, which is all part of being a rookie.

He has shown flashes of brilliance, and an occasional ability to light up the scoring sheet already in his short career. His calm demeanour underneath the basket and high basketball IQ have been highlights of Olynyk’s game thus far. The only way Kelly will be out of Boston would be in a blockbuster-type trade as a trade chip, which is all speculation at this stage.

Waiting At The Depot

Avery Bradley

Bradley has had a very consistent season on both ends of the court. He has proven his ability to knockdown mid-range jumpers off the dribble, off screens and the catch and shoot, keeping his opponent honest defensively.

This improvement on the offensive side of the ball has been good for the Celtics this year, but Bradley will head into the 2014 offseason as a Restricted Free Agent. It will be interesting to see how much teams are prepared to offer Bradley. The financial side of basketball may become too much for Ainge to keep Bradley on board. Watch this space.

Kris Humphries

Remember when Boston fans had reservations surrounding this man playing for our team? With Rondo? What a difference 6 months makes. Humphries has been a true professional in his entire time with the Celtics. He began the season warming the bench and logging DNP’s, but he kept his mouth shut and worked his way into the rotation, then as the first big off the bench, to become the starting centre on this team.

Leading via hard work is crucial for a veteran, as it sets a great example for his young teammates. His upbeat personality and hustle on the floor actually have Celtic fans and reporters reconsidering Hump’s future with this team. Originally, the general consensus was to trade away Humphries and his expiring contract before February’s trade deadline. Now we are wondering whether Ainge may decide to bring him back next season. Things will become much clearer next month.

Jeff Green

As we saw against Washington, Ironman is capable of big scoring nights. When he plays with aggression, he is one of the best small forwards in the league. The problem for Uncle Jeff lies with his inconsistency. Some nights he can be unstoppable, other nights he is barely sighted.

It is this inconsistency that has brought his name up in trade rumours in the past week, and why he was mentioned when the Rockets were shopping Omer Asik in December. Green would be a great foil on a contending team, but more likely as a role player than a starter. It remains to be seen whether Green will stick with the Celtics in the long run.

Vitor Faverani

El Hombre Indestructible started the season in great fashion, posting big numbers in points and boards before crashing back to earth. Now buried on the bench, Vitor is with the Celtics on a cheaper contract, and should stick with the team unless he is part of a trade package.

Jerryd Bayless

Acquired only two weeks ago in a trade for Courtney Lee, Danny Ainge holds Bayless in high regard. Capable of posting big numbers off the bench, he is a proficient ball-handler and is still relatively young for his experience. A free agent at season’s end, Balyess has spoken of his desire to stick with the Celtics beyond this year.

Gerald Wallace

While there are many people who would be incredibly happy to see Crash leaving Beantown, it is very unlikely due to his awful contract. While he can provide leadership to this young team, Wallace has called out his teammates publicly on numerous occasions and it is something that has worn pretty thin with fans. Unless a rival GM goes temporarily insane, the Celtics will be stuck with this contract until it expires at the end of the 2014/15 season.

Joel Anthony

The two-time NBA champion came to Boston with draft picks to relieve Miami of luxury tax issues last week. A solid veteran presence, Anthony’s game is based on defending and rebounding. He holds a player option of $3.8 million for next season, and from a financial perspective it would make sense for Anthony to pick up this option. Luckily Anthony is a professional who will always support his team regardless of his personal situation.

Brandon Bass

It’s becoming increasingly likely that this hard worker won’t remain with the Celtics beyond this year. With Kris Humphries providing a veteran presence to Sullinger and Olynyk, it’s hard to see where Bass can fit into this team’s future. On a reasonable contract, Bass would be a nice complementary piece to a contending team. While his service to the team over the past three seasons has been solid, and at times undervalued, it would appear his days may be numbered.

End Of The Line

Keith Bogans

An expiring contract and being excused indefinitely due to being upset with a lack of playing time? All signs point to the relationship between Bogans and the Celtics ending very soon.

It will be interesting to watch the next month unfold for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. After the success of Shavlik Randolph’s 10-day contract last season and the surprise play of Chris Johnson this week, it’s no surprise if Ainge continues to plug holes in the roster along the way.

Things will become much clearer after the trade deadline passes. Holding a $10 million exception and an abundance of draft picks to exchange, we will be keeping a keen eye on who will find themselves a seat on the Celtics’ bus to banner #18.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Is Lee the first Domino to fall?

In a season where it was widely expected that the Celtics would be active in the trade market, the first in-season move has been made. The Celtics have traded Courtney Lee to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jerryd Bayless (and Ryan Gomes from OKC who was immediately waived). What can we tell from this move? Was this a basketball decision or a financial decision? Does this make the Celtics buyers, or sellers? Is this the first domino to drop for this Celtics team?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks

Firstly, this absolutely was a financial move. Courtney Lee has 2 years and approximately $11 million ($5.225 million per season) remaining after this season on his current contract, whilst Jerryd Bayless is in the final year of his contract with $3 million owing to him this season. It is well documented that with this trade, the Celtics will trim off future money with this deal. As it currently stands, the Celtics will have approximately $40 million in cap space heading into next season –a little under $50 million if you count the first round picks and cap holdings– so this leaves us with a lot of room to resign either Bradley/Crawford, or even both if desired, giving some wiggle room to sign lower level free agents. The Celtics prior to the trade were a mere $500K away from the tax line – crossing this line would see the Celtics pay luxury tax, which for the current team is something they will avoid like the plague. Because the Celtics sent more in salary than they received, they were able to step away from the ledge a little – this could prove handy in future trades as it gives the team more flexibility to take a little more salary back if necessary to make numbers work.

From a basketball standpoint, both players are averaging similar numbers, with Bayless averaging 8ppg in 21mpg, and Lee with 7.4ppg in 17mpg. The biggest statistical difference with these players is efficiency – with Lee entering his prime at 28, he’s enjoying his most efficient season as a pro, averaging 44% from beyond the arc, and 16ppg per 36 which are both career highs – whilst Bayless is shooting at a terrible 37.5% field goal with an even worse 28% from 3 point land. While Lee is the better player in this trade, he is earning more and his contract runs longer than Bayless’, so this was a basketball move for Memphis, recognising that they need more shooters to spread the floor and a financial move for Boston, recognising that they need to shed themselves of long term salary to continue the rebuild.

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Credit to @Lil_Kaino for the artwork.

In a previous article asking whether or not the Celtics would be buyers or sellers, it seems that the Celtics are going to be sellers this season as Lee has been better than Bayless this season on both ends of the floor. This will be the first of many similar moves in the season for the Celtics to gain financial freedom. The Celtics have an abundance of veterans on the team that could find themselves relocated by the February trade deadline, which include:

  • Brandon Bass – He has been having one of his best seasons as a pro and has a reasonable contract (1 year, over $6 million remaining after this season). Bass has been one of the most consistent performers in this Celtic team, unfortunately he is playing a position that the Celtics are stacked in, especially with the need to develop the younger talent in Sullinger and Olynyk who both are PF. As his name has already been in the trade rumours this season, expect Ainge to move Bass during the course of the season.
  • Kris Humphries – As mentioned previously, Hump has been playing some outstanding ball for the Celtics lately. He came over strictly as an expiring contract (over $12 million coming off the books) but has since become an important piece to the team. He runs hard, can knock down jump shots, and he attacks the boards hard. Unless Ainge includes Hump into a deal to get an all-star, or future picks, there’s a possibility that Hump may actually stay – purely because his contract coming off the books next season maybe be more valuable than what Ainge could get back.
  • Jordan Crawford – One of the biggest surprises this season has been the emergence of Jordan Crawford. He has surprised the whole league with his stellar play at point guard in the absence of Rajon Rondo. With Bayless on the team now, they share a similar skill set – because the Celtics cannot trade a freshly acquired player for 3 months, this could possibly make Crawford redundant once Rondo returns. Danny bought low on Crawford last season and if he has a chance to sell high on him, I would expect him to take it (for the record, I would take Steez over Bayless any day of the week).
  • Jeff Green –  Green is not necessarily the trade spotlight, but he is a player that a lot of teams would/have shown interest in acquiring.  With his shoot/slash game, size and ability to defend, and the fact that he is on a reasonable contract, Danny wouldn’t just let him go for a salary dump as he is worth more than that – we would have to get a player back that is clearly an upgrade to Jeff.
  • Gerald Wallace – Danny would obviously love to move Wallace and that horrendous remaining 3 years/$10 million contract that he is on. Reality is, unless we are giving up a first pick, or a star such as Rondo, there is no incentive for any team to take him.
  • Keith Bogans/MarShon Brooks – Bogans would be included in a trade purely to make up numbers, just like he was in the Nets/Celtics trade as there is simply no demand for him. For MarShon however, this trade could benefit him as he has moved up the SG depth with Lee traded. Hopefully he gets some burn with the Celtics so they can proper evaluate him to see if he is a future piece, or trade bait.
  • Rajon Rondo – It wouldn’t be much of a trade article if we don’t talk about Rondo being traded, would it? As stated, the Celtics would absolutely rather build around Rondo rather than trade him. Ainge would have to be blown out of the water by an offer, which would have to include the following: a young star/future picks/expiring contracts – coupled with the other teams’ willingness to take Gerald Wallace’s poisonous contract off our hands.

Look for the Celtics to be active in the trade market, especially when it gets closer to the trade deadline and other teams are under pressure to land veteran help.
Courtney Lee by all accounts looked to be a great teammate and competitor and us Celtic fans appreciated his play and determination. He should fit in great at Memphis as a shooter and defender – we wish him all the best.

Lee is the first domino to fall, who’s next?

Leave your opinions below.

- Dave Mikhael @big_dave31

Humphries Working Hard

Buried in a front court rotation at the beginning of the season, Kris Humphries continued to plug away, work hard in practice, and be an ultimate professional in supporting his teammates from the bench. Not once did he complain about his lack of minutes, despite logging 4 DNP’s due to coach’s decision in the first 8 games of the year.

Behind Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, and rookie bigs Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani, Humphries wasn’t discouraged. He has been in the league long enough to know it would only be a matter of time until an injury or poor play would give him an opportunity to prove his worth on this team. And he sure has taken that opportunity.

His playing style of physical rebounding, an impressive ability to block shots and defend the paint, good finishes around the rim, and a nice mid-range jump shot are great qualities to have in a power forward. Humphries has been a great hustle player as the first man off the bench over the month of December, averaging 19.6 minutes while putting up 8.6 points at an impressive 62%, and 5.1 rebounds per contest.

Against Atlanta tonight, Humphries posted a season-high 18 points and 10 boards to register his first double-double for Boston. Such has been Humphries ability to force his way into the rotation via hard work, he has now become the first player off Coach Stevens’ bench, while poor old Vitor Faverani is now logging DNP’s.

Not only does this help in the short term for the development of the Celtics young bigs, to learn from Hump on how to run the floor and to make the most of the opportunities given to you, it also helps increase his trade value.

An expiring contract from a very capable power forward and a professional is something that should be very appealing to a team looking to make a deep post-season run. It is highly unlikely that Humphries will still be in green by February’s trade deadline. Danny Ainge will have the opportunity to add more picks and create more cap room for the 2014 offseason, something all Celtic fans should be very excited about.

In the meantime, we can continue to admire a player Celtic fans originally didn’t want on their team. A will to put his body on the line and continue to make the right decisions on the floor have been a pleasure to watch.

Share your thoughts on Humphries’ recent strong play with us in the comments!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Another Day, Another Rondo Trade Rumour

We all know how this goes now. Team X is interested in Rondo, and they are offering a mediocre package of players X, Y and Z.  The latest comes from the NY Daily News with this nugget:

“Of course, the Knicks primary target is Rondo, Boston’s All Star point guard who is currently recovering from knee surgery. The Knicks have been trying to trade Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire in a complicated deal for Rondo but the rebuilding Celtics has yet to show much interest. Unless the Celtics are blown away with an offer it’s hard to imagine Celtics GM Danny Ainge trading his best player, Rondo, to the rival Knicks.”

I wonder what they mean by complicated? The fact that it is a horrible deal for the Celtics and they would have zero interest in being involved in this trade? Yeah, that would sure make things complicated from their end.

Danny Ainge responded to these rumours today emphatically denying any interest in parting with our 4-time All-Star point guard, calling him “the centrepiece of our future”, he then expanded – “Guys that are starting All-Star players just don’t come around. The special players, the transcendent players in our league, are very difficult to find and acquire. We believe Rondo is one of those guys. He’s a very special player. We value him a great deal.”
He finally closed with:

“What’s real is, he’s going nowhere, that’s what’s real.”

This is as strong as a statement that you will get from Danny. He is sending a message to the league – Rondo is our STAR, everyone is available at a certain price, but, do not offer garbage and expect us to jump on it. As I have touched on in a past article – unless Danny is getting blown away with an offer he cannot refuse, Rondo is not going anywhere.

Whilst the Celtics are not interested in trading Rondo for New York’s off-cuts, Chris Broussard from ESPN has tweeted the following:

This is an intriguing possibility. New York have regretted signing Amar’e to that behemoth contract ($100 million over 5 years) since the end of his first season as a Knick. Including this season, he has 2 years left ($21m this year and $23m next), he has just come off more surgery on his knees and is now placed on a strict minutes restriction. With Carmelo’s free agency pending, New York are desperate to rid themselves of Stoudemire’s contract and add some players that might make them better short term. A trade of, say – Bass, Lee, Gerald Wallace & maybe Bogans’ expiring could be enough to get it done. For New York, this is a short term move that may set them back in the longer term, as both Wallace and Lee’s contract run for an extra year after Stoudemire’s contract ends.

Whoops New York!

Why would the Celtics do this? Purely financial. In the long term, executing a trade like this will give the Celtics a boat load of cap space heading into the 2015/2016, allowing them to sign multiple max-level players in that off-season. In the short term, this frees up the logjam at both the shooting guard and power forward position, allowing the Celtics to play/develop their young players.

This would ultimately make the Celtics for this current season a weaker team – but with the potential of keeping Rondo, playing our youth, and getting a higher draft pick in a stacked draft, is that such a bad thing?

What are your thoughts on the circulating rumours? What do you think Danny Ainge should do?

The next step?

So the Boston Celtics as we know them for much of the past few years, have been blown up.

After ending their 2012-13 season in the first round of the playoffs, Danny finally succumbed to his urges, and turned this proud franchise of grizzled vets into young pups. A team that up until the beginning of this past season was feared by the reigning champion Miami Heat, are no longer a reason for concern any more.

dannyainge

After Danny Ainge traded away our veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the common question the basketball world seems to be asking is: what next for the Boston Celtics?

Firstly, I have absolutely no idea on what Danny will do with our roster as currently constructed, nor would anything he does actually surprise me.

What Danny does have however, are options and flexibility. He has a load of young assets, and 9 future 1st round picks over the next 5 years. The question is: what happens this coming season? This is important, especially when the all-important 2014 draft touted to be as strong as the 2003 draft on the horizon.

The way I see it, Danny has three options on a direction to take the team through this season and beyond:

1. Remaining competitive (Getting immediate help)

As the roster stands right now, we have an All-Star point guard, a budding 20 PPG wing scorer, an all-NBA defender in his 3rd year, some expiring contracts and some other key young pieces.

image5

There are quite a few players in the open market that Ainge could acquire if he was willing to part with young assets and Kris Kardashian Humphries’ expiring contract in a sign + trade.

An example of going this route would be the very popular rumour that has continuously made the rounds – obtaining Josh Smith in a sign and trade from Atlanta. Whilst the Celtics would be entertaining to watch in the immediate future, such a move like this for Smith, or any of the available borderline All-Stars would not make us a contender. Furthermore, the Celtics would be left in the dreaded land of mediocrity which, ironically, is where Smoove’s old team in Atlanta have been for the past 5+ years.

2. Making slight adjustments (No major acquisitions)

Going this route would entail Danny making some low-level moves to balance the awkward roster that would be left, after the trade with Brooklyn officially goes through. The idea here would be to develop (showcase) our young players and to increase their value, with the hopes of cashing out once their value has peaked.

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The problem people can see with this route, is that the Celtics will not be bad enough to get a top five pick, nor will they be good enough to make a serious run. On the flip side, will we really be that good with this team? There will be no true centers, no bona fide scorers, and our best player may miss the start of the season coming off ACL surgery.

3. Complete the blow up (Trade Rondo)

This route is simple: gutting the team (trading Rondo) and basically tank for the highest possible draft pick in the 2014 draft. This is an extremely high-risk/high-reward type move that has burned the franchise twice once before (in fairness, 2007 turned out just fine for us).

Andrew Wiggins in Celtic green.

The worst-case scenario here is if the Celtics trade away Rondo at low value, and do not luck out in the draft. On the flip side, if we are able to snag one of these studs in this draft, coupled with all the 1st picks we have coming to us, we could very much see our team come together over 2-3 years just like OKC did when they started off with Kevin Durant + Jeff Green.

Best idea?

Out of the three moves, I think the best decision to make for this franchise right now is to be patient and maybe make a slight adjustment to the roster. There may be the temptation to move some of our young talent for savvy vets, but, do we really want to settle for being a middle-of-the-road team?

Also, if we could develop our young guys further, their value could grow quite a bit to the point where they might be able to net us a big fish. If Rondo’s recovery takes the expected amount of time, he could possibly be out until Christmas and when he does play again, he would surely be on a minutes restriction just like Ricky Rubio was when he came back from the same injury. With Rondo missing significant time, and being brought back slowly, the Celtics could find themselves being a lottery team, with a chance of lucking out and getting a top-5 pick in the 2014 draft plus their all-star point guard back at 100%.

I fully believe Danny when he says that he is not looking to deal Rondo, but, if he finds a deal out there that he simply can’t refuse, then, he surely should look at it. In the latest rumour, Detroit are reportedly looking at trading for Rondo. If Danny could receive a package from Detroit that includes either Monroe or Drummond + Knight and a future 1st round pick (and perhaps even throwing in Wallace’s contract for an expiring), then that is definitely something that he would have to consider.

celticsbanner

Uncertain times are ahead, but with all the assets at our disposal, I have full confidence in our front office and Danny Ainge to pull off the correct moves to rebuild Boston back to being contenders year in, year out. Have faith and enjoy the construction of our next great team from the ground up.

An optimistic view: The future might not be so bad

Amidst the departures that are fast becoming the norm for the Celtics over the past fortnight, there are still some positives to look forward to, when it comes to the most successful franchise in the NBA.

Of course, the loss of Celtics legend Paul Pierce, heart and soul Kevin Garnett, and championship coach Doc Rivers, leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of all Boston fans. It will be hard to see Garnett and Pierce in the colours of the Brooklyn Nets, and we wish them nothing but the best in their pursuit of a second championship – as long as it’s not at the Celtics’ expense.

What many Celtics fans are wondering now is, where do we go from here?

Looking at the remaining players from the 2012/13 version of the Boston Celtics, we are left with a young and promising core of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, with Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee thrown in for good measure.

With Rajon Rondo as a centerpiece, the Celtics will still be a competitive bunch. The emergence of Jeff Green as a legitmate scoring option will bode well for the Celtics from the small forward position, while the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and continued improvement of Jared Sullinger suggests a young core going forward that can be built around upon. In addition, the Celtics drafted Kelly Olynyk with pick 13, a PF/C who was described as a good complementary player by Danny Ainge.

Reports about the availability of All-Star point guard Rondo have surfaced in the wake of other senior members’ departures, but Danny Ainge has addressed the rumours twice over the past week, on draft night and at the introduction of our draftees today.

Chris Forsberg of ESPN summarised it well:

“We have had calls. On Jeff [Green], on Courtney [Lee], on Brandon [Bass], on Rondo, on Jared [Sullinger] and our draft pick, Kelly — there’s been calls for all those guys. And maybe the assumption is we are just changing everybody. But we’re not. We’re starting to get younger.”

Ainge stressed that the team’s current plans include Rondo, despite the fact that his name bubbled up this weekend with the Dallas Mavericks potentially being interested in his services.

“Don’t believe everything you read, especially on Twitter,” Ainge quipped.

“I always listen to calls and listen to what ideas are, but we have no intentions of moving Rajon,” he said.

Then, there are the players coming in from Brooklyn. Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph are all included in the trade for Garnett, Pierce and Terry.

The biggest get in this trade for Boston could be a player they traded on draft night two yeas ago – MarShon Brooks. A shooting guard who knows how to score in a variety of ways, Brooks could ease the concerns surrounding Boston’s ability to put up big numbers with the departures of Pierce and Garnett.

Gerald Wallace has a massive 3 years and $30 million left on his contract, but he can be a defensive pest with his length and rebounding ability and could be a handy addition if the Celtics intend to keep him. However, his post-season struggles on the offensive end were well-documented, so it will be interesting to see if the Celtics keep him, or even use their amnesty provision on him.

Kris Humphries may not be a member of the team for long, as Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweeted this a few days ago:

Keep an eye on Charlotte as a possible landing spot for Kris Humphries. Rival execs skeptical he stays in Boston.

After the Christmas Day scuffle between Rondo and Humphries, I’m sure this isn’t a total surprise. Humphries could very well bring a nice player back in return if he is moved.

The biggest positive of the Boston-Brooklyn trade is the amount of assets Ainge has received. With unprotected first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, the ability to trade or draft excellent talent will hold the Celtics in good stead over the next few years. While C’s fans all over wished for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett finish their careers in green, Ainge has acquired pieces for the future, for two players that might have only one or two more seasons left in them. This follows from what Ainge has reiterated over the past few seasons; he didn’t want to make the same mistake as Red Auerbach when he didn’t trade McHale and Bird for assets in their later years.

And just to ease the minds of those worried about a very long season, Ainge also had this to say (via Gary Washburn):

Danny Ainge to Globe: “We are not tanking. Thats ridiculous. This is the Boston Celtics.” #celtics

In the mean time, big changes are afoot. A roster clean-up when the Boston-Brooklyn blockbuster trade goes through on the 12th of July, free agency signings, finding a coach, and more possible trades? We are set for an interesting summer that has really only just begun in the rebuild of this storied franchise. Rumours linking Rondo’s high school friend Josh Smith, and overseas player Gigi Datome mean the 2013/14 Celtics could be in the mould of a young, but exciting team. Unfortunately it will be without Dwight Howard, after Ainge put in a courtesy call about a sign-and-trade that was rejected by the Lakers.

While there is so much unknown between now and the new season, the 2012/13 versions of the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors proved that the right mix of youth, confidence and hustle can result in an unexpected playoff berth sooner than expected. Perhaps the Celtics can aim for the same sort of return next season.

Let us know how you think the team (in its current state) will perform next season by sounding off in the comments section below!

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