If the Boston Celtics had it their way, Rajon Rondo would not be going anywhere.
He’d be the franchise cornerstone. The one they build around. The first man to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy when they finally make it back to basketball’s promised land.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how things work out in the NBA.
The Celtics agreed to part ways with Rondo on Thursday according to numerous reports, shipping the four-time All-Star point guard to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for three role players (Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and Brandan Knight) and two draft picks.
One of those picks reportedly will be a first-rounder in 2015, but with the Mavericks bolstering what already was one of the top lineups in the NBA, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t be a particularly high one.
Dallas immediately will see the effects of this deal. Rondo’s pass-first mentality allows him to make everyone around him better — much has been written about the way his facilitation has improved Tyler Zeller’s game this season — and will be in no way starving for talent.
Rondo’s impending arrival immediately launches the Mavs into the upper echelon of the stacked Western Conference, if they weren’t there already.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are left to chew on the reality that this foray into mediocrity will be more than a one-year stay. After Danny Ainge & Co. failed to land a Kevin Love-type star to pair with Rondo this past summer, they were forced to take what they could get or risk losing Rondo to free agency at season’s end.
With Rondo playing at the level he is this season, the Celtics looked like they could potentially — potentially — make a run for a low playoff seed in the embarrassingly weak East. But now, it’s back to the bottom. Many expect Jeff Green to leave town via trade before long as well, and Brandon Bass could be heading out, too.
The reins of the team now belong to rookie point guard Marcus Smart, who has shown some tremendously bright flashes — one of which came, coincidentally, against the Mavericks last month — but is nowhere near ready to lead Boston to anything more than a lottery pick. Plus, he’s been nagged by injuries this season, which have only stunted his growth.
So, the Celtics will be bad this season, perhaps even worse than last year’s “Tankapalooza” squad that finished 25-57. But Ainge’s intentions are clearer than ever: The Big Three era officially is over. The Celtics’ eyes now are fixed solely on the future.
The TD Garden staff had better get going on that video tribute. The Mavs come to town Jan. 2.
Thumbnail photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press