LeBron James’ decision to go back to Cleveland was the worst-case scenario for the Miami Heat. But it also isn’t so hot for the Boston Celtics.
As in, say so long, Rajon Rondo.
With James announcing Friday that he will sign with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, there is suddenly a new leader in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. Just a couple of weeks ago, Love reportedly nixed a possible trade to the Cavs, saying he wouldn’t re-sign there. Now, he is open to the idea of signing with Cleveland if a trade takes place. I wonder what changed his mind?
That’s bad news for the Celtics, obviously, who can’t match Cleveland’s offer of No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves. No combination of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and draft picks can trump that. Wolves coach/president/part-owner Flip Saunders’ patience will have paid off mightily if he ends up netting Wiggins, although such a move would contradict his stated goal of not taking a backward step, even temporarily.
But the Celtics lose more than a shot at an All-Star power forward. They could lose an All-Star point guard, too.
Holding onto Rondo just doesn’t make sense for the Celtics anymore if Love goes to Cleveland. He’s 28 years old, with one year and $12.9 million left on his contract. The minor moves the Celtics made so far this offseason have not vaulted them out of NBA purgatory in the short-term. It simply wouldn’t be fair, to Rondo or to the Celtics, to keep him around.
This is something close observers have been hearing and saying for a while, but Friday’s announcement and the dominoes that are likely to fall hammered home the reality. The Celtics figure to be in this rebuild for the long haul now. The draft pick they received in this week’s three-team trade is still valuable, but less s0 with James in Cleveland. Instead of a possible lottery pick, it’s now likely to fall somewhere in the late 20s.
Rondo has said he wants to stay in Boston, and he seems to be telling the truth, but what he wants and what the Celtics can deliver might not jell. Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck promised “fireworks” this summer — so far, the fireworks are exploding over Lake Erie. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has reminded everyone, numerous times, “it’s a long offseason.”
Man, is Ainge ever right. The offseason technically only began Thursday, but for the Celtics, it certainly looks very long indeed.