With the decision to shift from playoff contention to evident rebuild, no Celtic is safe. Paul Pierce, who could have eventually retired having spent his entire career in Boston, was shipped to the Nets. Kevin Garnett, the cultural center of Boston's basketball rebirth, went with him. Cherished head coach Doc Rivers was functionally traded to the Clippers, leaving behind but a single remnant of the 2008 title team on either the playing or coaching rosters: the incredibly talented and enigmatic Rajon Rondo.
Rondo is a pass-first point guard to a fault who plays strangely noncommittal defense -- a peculiar player through-and-through who could prove challenging to build around. That fact alone warrants consideration of a further move; though Rondo is definitively the best Celtic on the roster, the oddities of his skill set and his ongoing recovery from an ACL tear make him a less-than-ideal building block for Boston. He could wind up having a long and wonderful career for the Celtics, or he could well produce while causing his share of on-court problems along the way.
Regardless, there's another angle in Rondo's staying that deserves consideration: Whether the notoriously particular star wants to stick around at all. No one could much blame Rondo for wanting to play for a better team, but as he told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, that's not the case:
And Rondo continues to insist that all changes considered, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I love it here, the fans are great here, (president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) has been straight with me, so why would I want to leave?” he said. “Why would I want out? This is a brand new start for us as a team.”
Rondo's commitment matters a great deal in this case for reasons that go well beyond his upcoming free agency in 2015. Suffering through a rebuild takes its toll on all involved, and Rondo doesn't exactly have the cleanest reputation when it comes to dealing with adversity. He and Rivers once reportedly almost came to blows, and the quotes detailing the way he grated on his coach and teammates are many. That's all well and good when Rondo is an essential contributor on a title contender, but the same temperament could be a bit less welcome on a losing team where he's expected to set an example.
MAHONEY: Potential trade targets in 2013-14
With Rondo's buy-in, the Celtics might at least have some fundamental commitment to their ongoing process. Things could grow more challenging as the losses pile up and the patience of all in Boston's locker room wanes, but for the moment this gesture -- along with the open communication between Rondo and Ainge -- could go a long way.