By Ben Golliver
Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo is reportedly available in advance of Thursday's trade deadline, even though he recently suffered a season-ending knee injury and is signed to one of the league's most reasonable contracts for a star.
ESPN.com reports that the Celtics are "willing to trade" Rondo "in [the] right deal."
CBSSports.com reported over the weekend that the Lakers and Celtics had discussed a Dwight Howard for Rondo proposal, although Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak quickly shot down that report, according to ESPN.com. Kupchak has repeatedly said that Howard won't be traded.
Finding the "right deal" for Rondo is difficult. At 26, he has a title to his name, loads of playoff experience and is regarded as one of the premier set-up men in the game and a crafty defender. He's on the books for $12 million next season and $12.9 million in 2014-15, a very good value which is mitigated by the fact that he will likely miss a significant portion of next season as he rehabilitates from a torn ACL. Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game prior to his injury.
Rondo isn't particularly expendable. The Celtics lack a young point guard waiting in the wings and he's long represented the next chapter of Boston basketball once veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce head for retirement. While his lack of range, less-than-ideal ability to get to the free throw line, and hot temper are annoyances, but he carried an injury-ridden Celtics to the brink of the Finals last year with several phenomenal postseason performances. Acquiring a starting-caliber point guard in return would seem to be a prerequisite for any deal and it's unclear why rival teams would swap a healthy point guard for an injured Rondo at this juncture of his rehabilitation. Taking on Rondo this soon after a major injury would be amount to a major "buy low" move by any interested GMs; Boston's return would seemingly suffer given those conditions, potentially making it impossible for the "right deal" to come to fruition.