Rajon Rondo has long been a private person by nature, this offseason’s press junket notwithstanding. So maybe it’s no surprise that, as he prepares to enter the final season of his contract, all the rumors about his future are coming from sources outside his camp.
He has not requested a trade, a la Kevin Love, who continues to blow in the wind with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has not made it clear he will not re-sign, as Carmelo Anthony, now freshly re-signed by the New York Knicks, did with the Denver Nuggets. He is not planning a TV special to announce his free agency intentions, like LeBron James.
Whether any of those players’ actions were objectively wrong is besides the point. In the spirit of fairness, however, if public fandom is going to fricassee any one of them for turning the end of his contract into a circus, we must also recognize Rondo for making his situation anything but.
Throughout all the reports and rumors that he could be traded at any moment, Rondo has persistently stated that he wants to stay in Boston. Since he is a man of so few words, Rondo forces listeners to read between the lines in an effort to decode his actual meaning. Yet nothing he has said could remotely be construed as forcing his way out of town.
Of course, it’s always easier when the “right” approach also happens to be the truthful one. Rondo really does want to remain a Celtic, which is likely why it is so easy for him to say so. By contrast, Love clearly does not relish living in Minnesota, and James, Anthony and Deron Williams had tired of their surroundings before making their unceremonious exits in the past few years.
Still, by approaching his impending free agency or a potential trade with a measure of professionalism, Rondo has strengthened the Celtics’ hand as well as his own. Skepticism is already somewhat high around the NBA given Rondo’s recovery from a torn ACL; add a disgruntled attitude to the mix, and his trade value might be nonexistent. Instead, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is under no external pressure to trade a point guard who says he wants to be a Celtic anyway.
(Proving there is often no winning, complaints about Rondo’s attitude continue to muddle any trade talk pertaining to him.)
The funny thing is, there is a growing sense that Celtics fans would ship out Rondo at a moment’s notice. A recent poll by another local sports site (since taken down) found over 90 percent of respondents favored trading Rondo. The schizophrenia of sports fans never disappoints. One moment, people criticize a free agent as disloyal for exercising his contractual right to sign wherever his pleases; the next moment, they clamor to trade a player under contract who yearns to stay with the team.
It’s a double standard that Rondo has navigated perfectly thus far, although “perfect” has seldom been a word used to describe him. He has made missteps as a captain and might never be the most charismatic media personality. As he nears the possible end of his time with the Celtics, however, Rondo has handled the circumstances in a way one wishes every player would.