Rebuilding in today's NBA includes shipping off large contracts and star players, and that's perhaps why NBA executives fully expect the Boston Celtics to trade point guard Rajon Rondo once it's clear he's healthy coming off an ACL tear last season.
Trade rumors were tossed about last summer and this season, but since Rondo return Friday, they're only bound to heat up. Most recently, it was the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence reporting that multiple NBA executives believe the Celtics will trade Rondo before the trade deadline in February or around the 2014 NBA Draft.
Both are in the Western Conference, and both would make sense for Rondo. Houston wouldn't mind improving its point guard situation, while Suns general manager and former Boston assistant general manager Ryan McDonough could be looking to win now. Phoenix has the assets to make an intriguing package for the Celtics.
Yet, Sporting News' Sean Deveney has sources seemingly closer to the Boston camp who say Rondo and the Celtics have been communicating about their entwined future since this past summer
Rondo's contract runs through the 2014-15 season, and it's at that point he and the Celtics could re-evaluate their fit with one another. Boston's cap situation opens up in the summer of 2015, and Deveney's sources believe Rondo "relishes that challenge" of working with first-year coach Brad Stevens in rebuilding the Celtics.
The signs are there that Boston is building Rondo's role to be a leader rather than a trade chip. When he was introduced during his return to the court on Friday, the Celtics' P.A. announcer addressed the point guard as "the captain," and as Boston.com's Adam Kaufman writes, that's a bit meaningful regarding the long term.
Rondo may be fine with playing his current contract out in Boston. Then in 2015, he could re-sign with a team that will have enough cap space to sign one additional max contract free agent in a loaded class.
Of course, Celtics president Danny Ainge approaches every situation with an open mind. Boston very well could have told Rondo of their rebuilding plans and might see him as part of it. Ainge also was hoping coach Doc Rivers would be coaching the Celtics this season — when the situation for Rivers to leave for Los Angeles arose, things changed.
Could they for Rondo?
The Detroit Pistons have been interested in Rondo for some time now, and that hasn't changed, according to the Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill. The New York Knicks reportedly wanted Rondo back in December, according to ESPN, but it's hard to see them scrounging up a deal that would interest Boston.
Ainge will remain patient.
Rondo likely will help his market value once he shows that his knee injury is no longer an issue, and as the rumors build back up, those teams desperate for a star will be more and more willing to ship a hefty package to Boston.