BOSTON — Danny Ainge’s preference all along was to keep Rajon Rondo as a member of the Celtics. But there comes a time when any good executive moves on to Plan B.
When the Celtics’ efforts to add an All-Star caliber running mate alongside Rondo this summer failed, trading Rondo arguably became the most prudent course of action, the Celtics president of basketball operations admitted Friday. When it was suggested the Celtics were in an uncertain position given Rondo’s impending free agency, Ainge didn’t disagree.
“Oh, I think there’s been uncertainty for a while as to what kind of team we’d be able to put together,” Ainge said. “We tried this summer to get some significant players in, unsuccessfully. There’s a price we won’t pay for any player, in order to make something happen this past summer.
“At the same time, there’s been uncertainty as to what (Rondo’s) future would be — the uncertainty with when he’d return, how he’d play — and I think he understood that, and I understood that, and we talked about it.”
Without naming names, which would run afoul of the NBA’s tampering laws, Ainge was candid about the Celtics’ widely reported pursuit of Kevin Love last offseason. He tacitly acknowledged how the failure to acquire Love altered what Ainge and the Celtics thought they could accomplish.
The lack of an available superstar — or at least, an available one on a team interested in the Celtics’ available assets — led Ainge toward the conclusion that trading Rondo was necessary. Among the many factors Ainge had to weigh before making a deal was what remaining value Rondo had following his February 2013 knee surgery.
“We were trying to see how it all fit and see what kind of player he was (after the injury),” Ainge said. “Then it all depended on if we had an offer that was good enough to do it. Then the timing of it, if you choose to make a trade, is this the best time to make a trade? All those things were well thought out. We felt like we had a really good pulse on most of our players’ value in the market. We thought this was the time and place.”
What the Celtics received in return for Rondo might disappoint casual fans, and Ainge said he respects their opinions. Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a conditional first-round draft pick and a 2016 second-round pick is an underwhelming haul for a four-time All-Star point guard and Dwight Powell.
But the Celtics have long thought Wright and Crowder were undervalued, Ainge said, and had tried to acquire them in the past. He also seized the opportunity to add two draft picks before the Celtics ran the risk of losing Rondo for nothing via free agency next summer.
Draft picks and largely unknown players might not do much to settle the masses. Yet the goal of Ainge’s Plan B wasn’t to satisfy a few angry ticketholders. Plan B — like Plan A, Plan C or whichever lettered plan the Celtics eventually fall back on — was to do what Ainge believes is best for the team in the long run.
Whether he did that with this move, Ainge admitted, “time will tell.”
Thumbnail photo via Charles Krupa/Associated Press
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