Here’s the first question Danny Ainge was asked in his press conference prior to Friday’s game: ‘Why did you trade Rajon Rondo?’
Ainge’s answer was brief: ‘There was a definite uncertainty into what may happen this summer. So that was a big factor.’
That’s all Ainge initially said on trading away his largest asset for what will presumably be a late first-round pick and a few misfit parts. Those few words tell us everything we need to know, though.
Ainge believed Rondo was going to bolt in free agency and didn’t want to lose him for nothing, so he traded him. It was the right move, plain and simple.
However, uncertainty remained a key word.
‘We like the players that we got in the trade,’ Ainge expanded. ‘But, listen, I think that with [Rondo’s] impending free agency and uncertainty of what may happen this summer, I think that gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal.’
Ainge was later asked how long these uncertainties had existed regarding Rondo’s future in Boston.
‘Oh, I think that there’s been uncertainty for a while,’ Ainge claimed. ‘You know, as to what kind of team we’d be able to put together. We tried this summer to get some significant players in, unsuccessfully, and there’s a price that we won’t go [to], either. [A price] that we won’t pay for any player in order to make that happen this past summer.
‘At the same time, there’s been uncertainty as to what [Rondo’s] future would be, and there’s been uncertainty as to how he would return and how he’d come back and play [after tearing his ACL]. Yeah, I think he’s understood that, and I’ve understood that and we’ve talked about it.’
Despite being a huge contributor to many Celtics‘ teams in the past, Rondo isn’t the type of player that could ever help this team win. So getting something for him while you still can makes perfect sense. The only thing I questioned was the timing of Ainge’s move, but that was another idea he addressed.
‘The timing and the market was well though through and calculated,’ said Ainge. ‘You never know what may be available, but I think we had a pretty good feel for the teams that had interest, and consistent interest, over time and we thought all that through: timing and deals.’
Even though the timing was well thought out, it still isn’t an ideal time to try and trade your point guard away. Many, including myself at times, figured there just wasn’t a trade out there for Rondo that made sense.
‘Right, well you would expect maybe a one-third of the teams in the league wouldn’t want to acquire a player of Rajon’s stature even when their goal isn’t a championship,’ Ainge said of the market for point guards. ‘I think that the top 10-12 teams with a realistic opportunity to win a championship would be the ones that would be interested in acquiring a player such as Rajon at this time. If you look around [at] the teams, this may have been the only one that didn’t have, that I would classify, a consideration for an All-Star type guard. Every good team has this level of point-guard.’
Ainge didn’t enjoy letting his star go, but he definitely wasn’t going to make the wrong decision because of that.
‘It was hard,’ Ainge admitted. ‘Yeah, it was very difficult to move Rajon. I know that it’s business in professional sports, but you really develop a lot of close relationships. And I loved watching Rajon, I loved visiting with him, our one-on-one conversations were fun, entertaining, frustrating sometimes, and always a surprise. I mean, the guy is a very unique person. But watching him grow and watching him develop as a man and as a person and as a basketball player ‘ I just enjoyed my interactions with him. And so, yeah, it was an emotional time as we met [Thursday] night. It was not an easy thing to do, but I believe it was the right thing to do.’
On a night where Ainge expressed many uncertainties, one certainly was not pulling the trigger on the deal that sent Rondo to Dallas, we can be sure of that. This was a move Ainge very much felt needed to be made.