By far the biggest question of the Celtics’ offseason now is what to do with Rajon Rondo.
For a solid two weeks, Doc Rivers dominated the headlines as he exited stage West to Los Angeles. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge snuck out Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry under the cover of the NBA draft, but the reality of their departures sank in last Friday, when the Brooklyn Nets began selling their new jerseys online. Only one member of the 2008 championship team is still in green, and even he might not be around for long.
No athlete is as polarizing among Boston fans as Rondo. Tim Tebow might take that title nationally, but in New England, the former Heisman Trophy winner is just another guy getting in line behind Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Like the national debate over Tebow, though, there is very little middle ground when Bostonians argue about Rondo. Some love him, some hate him. Almost everybody has an opinion.
To many, Rondo is the last remnant of the last “Big Three” era and an indispensable piece of the Celtics’ rebuilding plan. To others, he is a malcontent and a drain on team chemistry, allegedly chasing Ray Allen and then Rivers out of town. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but Ainge does not have the luxury of middle ground. Either Rondo stays or he must go. He can’t split time between the Celtics and your rec league squad when he’s in a bad mood.
A complicating factor, even for the crowd that would love to be rid of Rondo, is that his contract is not prohibitive. He is not a flawed star like Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay carrying around a toxic, multiyear deal like an albatross. Just under $12 million this season, followed by less than $13 million in 2014-15, is more than a fair rate for a four-time All-Star point guard. By comparison, Chris Paul will make $18 million and $20 million, respectively, in that same period of time. So while Rondo may be a headache, at least his headaches do not hamper Ainge’s ability to build his roster.
Rondo’s affordability is precisely why some teams might be interested, of course. There are not a lot of secrets around the NBA, so every potential trade partner knows far more about Rondo’s personality than the general public. Team executives have their own sources and experiences. They know what acquiring Rondo would mean to their locker rooms. Heck, that might be the only reason the Celtics have not been able to move him yet.
Ainge has made several tough calls already this summer. His toughest could be yet to come. Shipping out Rondo could jumpstart the Celtics’ rebuilding effort or hamper it in a way the franchise would never recover from. Whether Rondo stays or goes, both options represent a risk for the Celtics. Which risk should they take? Vote in the poll below.
To kick off the official start of the NBA offseason, NESN.com will ask fans whether they think the Celtics should keep or move on from each player. The following day, we will provide the fans? verdict. Here is the schedule*:
Monday, July 15: Rajon Rondo
Tuesday, July 16: Courtney Lee
Wednesday, July 17: Shavlik Randolph
Thursday, July 18: Jeff Green
Friday, July 19: Gerald Wallace
Monday, July 22: Kris Humphries
Tuesday, July 23: Keith Bogans
Wednesday, July 24: Fab Melo
Thursday, July 25: Jared Sullinger
Friday, July 26: Kris Joseph
Monday, July 29: MarShon Brooks
Tuesday, July 30: Jordan Crawford
Wednesday, July 31:
D.J. White Phil Pressey
Thursday, Aug. 1: Colton Iverson
Friday, Aug 2: Kelly Olynyk
*Subject to change pending any moves