Celtics Mailbag: Rajon Rondo Unlikely to Develop Jumper at This Stage of Career

Celtics Mailbag: Rajon Rondo Unlikely to Develop Jumper at This Stage of Career The Celtics already got an early start on summer vacation when the Heat knocked them out of the playoffs early last month. But here's the scary thing — they have no idea how long their time off will continue.

We may well be hours away from a lockout in the NBA, and if that indeed happens, we could find ourselves missing a sizable chunk of next season, if not (God forbid) all of it. The Celtics are still hoping they get a shot at Banner 18 next spring, but right now, there's no guarantee they'll get one.

You guys came armed this week with your questions about the lockout, the Celtics' new draftees, and the team's possibilities down the road in trades and free agency. It's a hectic time to be a C's fan right now — the possibilities are endless, and so is the panic.

Thanks to everyone for your questions. Let's check out the answers.

How much potential do you think JaJuan Johnson has, and what position do you think he'll play in the NBA?
–"Someone"

I think he's got a lot of potential. He's long, he's athletic, and he spent four years at Purdue developing his skills as a scorer, rebounder and defender. He's got all the tools to be a starter in this league. Not an All-Star, but a starter, sure.

I definitely think he's a power forward, but he's not ready to be a good one yet. As JaJuan Johnson himself has admitted, he needs to bulk up. You don't see many 220-pound guys with no lower body strength playing in the post in this league.

Johnson will spend the next year enduring Kevin Garnett's mentorship program. After a year of watching, observing, learning and also hitting the weight room quite a bit, he'll be ready to play the four-spot in the NBA.

Is there any offseason plan for Rajon Rondo to work on his outside shot? If he could keep defenses honest, it would create easier scoring chances across the board.
–Dan

I'll put it this way, Dan: I was in the Celtics' gym last week, and Rajon Rondo wasn't on the floor shooting. He was upstairs, running on the treadmill.

It pains me to say this, and I'm sure it's no picnic for you to read it, but I don't think Rondo is at all concerned with being a shooter. He's a Celtic, and he's surrounded by three Hall of Famers who can shoot like nobody's business. I think he takes that for granted a little bit. For now, Rondo's content just to be a defender, a fast-break weapon, and a facilitator for his teammates in the half-court offense.

I do agree with your assessment that Rondo developing a jumper would make everyone's lives easier; I just don't see it happening any time soon. Maybe there's hope for Rondo pulling a Jason Kidd and becoming a shooter late in his career. But for now, don't hold your breath. Sorry.

I think a lockout would benefit the Celtics. If there's only a 50- or 60-game season, I think it would help a lot with a older team. What do you think?
–Matt

I can see where you're coming from, Matt, but I don't think I agree. Here's the problem: You're playing fewer games, but you're cramming them into a really tight time frame. In 1999, the NBA began its season in February after a long lockout, and they played 50 games in exactly three months, from Feb. 5 to May 5. That's a brutal schedule.

When you have a spare moment, do a quick Google search and find the Celtics' 1999 schedule. It's ugly. There are road trips to five cities in one week. There are back-to-back-to-backs. That's hard for any team, but it's especially bad for the Celtics of today.

The C's will have too many weak knees and sore muscles to endure a season like that. Injuries will come fast, and they'll be painful. You miss just a couple weeks, and boom, that could be nine games. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but I think the Celtics are better off playing a regular 82-game season than a rushed 50-game one.

What will happen to all the players' contracts if there is no season next year? Will Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen still be on the team, or will they become free agents?
–Matt

They'd be free agents. Garnett and Ray Allen have signed contracts that expire in 2012, and that'll happen whether they play another season or not.

Garnett has hinted that if the owners lock him out this season, he may just retire. I doubt anything's set in stone yet, but he's definitely given that some thought. As for Allen, a season off might be OK for him. He'd spend the year eating right, working out, staying in shape and gearing up to return to action in 2012. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see Allen play until he's 40, especially if he gets a year off now to recharge.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again — I think the veteran guys like Garnett and Allen are at peace with the possibility of a long lockout. They're already filthy rich, whether they get a few more paychecks this year or not. It's the younger, less wealthy guys who are more worried. For example, Avery Bradley also has an expiring contract next season, and the last thing he wants is to become a free agent with only 162 career minutes on his resume.

After the lockout, if the Celtics aren't serious contenders, do you think Danny Ainge might try to trade some of his expiring contracts for draft picks and/or young players? I would think Ray Allen has some value, KG would be tough because his contract is so large, and I'm not sure about Jermaine O'Neal. Your thoughts?
–badax33

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on! Who said anything about the Celtics not being serious contenders?

I think Danny plans to stick it out to the bitter end with this group. Ray, KG and even Jermaine O'Neal all have more value to the Celtics than to anyone else — right now, they have a chance to win a championship with the personnel they have. They may not be prohibitive favorites, but they definitely have a shot at it, and Danny wouldn't trade that away.

Trading expiring contracts for assets is all well and good, but you don't do it when you're in position to win a title. The Celtics are going for broke with the roster they have. They'll consider themselves serious contenders until someone knocks them out of the playoffs next spring.

Will the Celtics sign restricted free agent Jeff Green?
–Chris Aeschliman

I think they have to, Chris. What's the point of shipping away Kendrick Perkins if you're not going to make a long-term commitment to the guy you're getting back?

The C's currently have six guys under contract — their five starters and Avery Bradley. Those six alone put them over the salary cap. They're going to be hard-pressed to add any new talent this summer, so they'd best make the most of the guys they have first dibs on. That means Jeff Green, Delonte West, and yes, maybe even Glen Davis.

Green has the potential to be good for the Celtics long-term. He needs a training camp to find his way with the C's, and he needs a clearly defined role that he can stick with all season. Green wasn't comfortable for his first three months here, and that's as much Doc Rivers' fault as it is Green's own. But considering the athletic ability and clear basketball skill he brings to the table, Green still has a promising future in this league.

What are the Celtics' chances of signing Samuel Dalembert this offseason?
–David

It's a good question, David. Samuel Dalembert would be a good fit in Boston — he's a reliable big man who basically never misses a game. We haven't had one of those around here in a while. I think the C's have a shot at getting him, but the competition will be stiff.

I've heard that New York and Miami, two teams in desperate need of a center, are going to make serious runs at Dalembert in free agency. The Lakers are also a darkhorse, but their payroll is huge and they might lose a potential bidding war.

Dalembert made $13.4 million last season with the Kings, and it's pretty clear he was overpaid. The guy turned 30 this year and has never averaged 11 points per game. But the question is — how big a pay cut is he willing to take? If he's willing to plummet all the way down to the mid-level exception (around $6 million), then the Celtics and the other big-market powers will be in play. Otherwise, Dalembert may end up with another team entirely, one with cap space. We'll see.

What will Danny Ainge have to do to beat out the Lakers and trade for Dwight Howard?
–Brian

Give up Kevin Garnett. Sorry.

Trades are difficult in this league. Cap-strapped teams like the Celtics aren't allowed to make a deal that brings in more than 120 percent of the salaries they give up. Dwight Howard is making $18.1 million next season. You do the math.

The Celtics aren't getting Dwight Howard in a trade next year. It's mathematically impossible unless the Celtics give up one of their superstar veterans, and the Magic don't want veterans in exchange for their franchise player. They want someone they can build a team around for years to come.

The C's have a shot at Howard, but it won't be in a trade. They'll have to wait for the summer of 2012 and then make a bid on the open market like everyone else.

Are there any big-name forwards or guards you see coming in 2012, once KG and Ray are gone and the C's actually have some loose money?
–TJ

Forwards or guards? You mean I don't get to talk more about Dwight Howard? You're killing me!

But yeah, TJ, there are plenty of good ones. The unfortunate thing is most of them are point guards, making them redundant with Rajon Rondo — Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller and Jameer Nelson are all among the guys who could hit the open market next summer.

But as for guys who will actually fit with the Celtics, here's a brief list: Gerald Wallace, Elton Brand, Jason Terry, Antawn Jamison, Randy Foye. None of them are big superstars, but each could fill a role in Boston. There's also the possibility that some guys from the 2008 draft class don't sign extensions with their current teams, giving them a chance to test restricted free agency over the summer. A refresher course on that class: Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari and the Lopez twins.

The summer of 2012 will be an interesting one in Boston. It's been a long time since the Celtics had any cap space to work with. Let's see how they spend it.

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