Jackie MacMullan, the longtime Boston sportswriter and ESPN contributor, revealed this week that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has told the team he “wants out”, meaning that he has requested a trade from the organization. While the previously unreleased clip from ESPN’s “Around the Horn” has since been taken down, the news still sent shockwaves through the NBA community.
It’s not like we couldn’t have seen this coming. The Celtics, much like the Los Angeles Lakers, are rebuilding for the future. Those plans may or may not involve Rondo. With the 6th pick in the 2014 NBA draft the Celtics took point guard Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State. While the organization believes that Rondo and Smart could coexist in the backcourt, Rondo may not be so sure.
According to MacMullin, Rondo has told the organization that he will not resign with the team when his contract expires at the end of the 2014-15 season. He also has stated he would not sign and extension with the Sacramento Kings, who have been linked to Rondo for some time now. While the Kings certainly have the assets to make a trade with the Celtics, most notably big man DeMarcus Cousins, trading for Rondo without an extension in place doesn’t make much sense.
For Danny Ainge, Boston’s general manager, it’s a difficult spot to be put in. His best case scenario is for Rondo to play the first half of the 2014-15 season with the Celtics and play well, thus proving himself to once again be one of the best point guards in the NBA. Ainge would then likely be able to trade Rondo midseason and get a handsome return before Rondo has the chance to leave the Celtics high and dry, which is the worst case scenario.
But for now, Ainge must consider the reality of the situation and understand that his back is against the wall. He is going to get calls from a number of teams around the NBA regarding Rondo’s availability. Would Ainge make trade before the season starts? It’s possible. And if it’s possible, Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office needs to get on it now.
Trading for a marquee player like Rondo, who would likely resign in Los Angeles, is a power play. The question isn’t whether or not the Lakers should attempt to trade for Rondo, rather it’s do the Lakers have enough assets to get a deal done with their arch rival?
The Celtics are building a young nucleus of players that will mature into a cohesive unit alongside young head coach Brad Stevens. They’re not in “win now” mode. The Lakers don’t have a ton of young assets to trade, but they do have rookie Julius Randle. Randle would likely be the only player the Celtics would want to build a trade around with the Lakers. Sure, in order to get a deal done the Lakers would likely have to trade away Steve Nash and his contract, along with perhaps Jordan Clarkson, Xavier Henry, or Ed Davis. But the key to a deal for Rondo would almost certainly have to be the inclusion of Julius Randle.
Now the question becomes do the Lakers want to trade Randle for Rondo? The Lakers have incredibly high hopes for Randle, as do the fans. He’s a big, strong, powerful forward who is destined to become a “20-10″ guy in the NBA. There may even be All-Star appearance in his future, at the very least. Can the Lakers give up so quickly on their future for a chance at a known quantity in Rondo?
Only Mitch Kupchak, Jimmy Buss, and the Lakers brain trust can answer that question. Only time will tell.