If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s draft history has proven anything, it’s that he knows how to identify elite defensive guards. Since 2009, only 11 guards have made the NBA’s two All-Defensive teams, and Ainge drafted three of them: Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. According to anonymous scouts contacted by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Ainge may have added another one to the list.

For five straight years, a Celtic manned one of the league’s four top defensive backcourt spots — with Rondo sandwiching a pair of Second Team selections in 2009 and 2012 around two First Team nods and Bradley earning his first bid as a 2013 Second Teamer — but that streak ended last season, when Bradley’s defense took a backseat to his budding offense and Rondo’s already declining defense obviously didn’t recover faster than his knee.

Despite being teammates since 2010, Rondo and Bradley have rarely patrolled the backcourt together. Injuries robbed us of a chance to see Bradley’s on-ball defense mesh with Rondo’s gambling mentality, but the former has adapted his training regimen in hopes of preventing injury and the latter should be fully recovered from ACL surgery.

If indeed Marcus Smart emerges as a lockdown defender on the perimeter, the Celtics could field the league’s most ferocious backcourt on that end, assuming both Bradley and Rondo return to form. And that’s a pretty big deal in a league that’s recently seen the near extinction of traditional centers and a growing emphasis on point guard play.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics are in the same old holding pattern, and Rajon Rondo doesn’t know where he’s going to land.

Over the weekend, video surfaced of a behind-the-scenes conversation between ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan and New York Daily News writer Frank Isola about the possibility of Rondo being traded.

“€œIt will happen, because he’€™s told them he wants out,”€ MacMullan said. “No one believes me, but that’€™s the truth. And I don’t see how you get 80 cents on the dollar for him. Tell me where. The Knicks? People keeping saying the Knicks; well, who are they going to give you? The Kings want him. … They’ll give up [Ben McLemore], but Rondo has already told [Sacramento] flat out, ‘I will never re-sign with you.’ That’s no good, so where do you go?”

The footage has since been deleted from the YouTube account for ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” but lives on over at Deadspin. Few media members know the inner workings of the Celtics front office better than MacMullan, so her claim that Rondo has essentially demanded a trade is significant — however off-the-cuff that statement may have been. But Jackie Mac has for years held the opinion Rondo isn’t long for Boston, and yet he remains on the roster.

Meanwhile, Rondo and his agent have denied the trade speculation first discovered by MassLive’s Jay King.

So, here we are again. To be or not to be traded? That is the question. Don’t dismiss MacMullan’s stance simply based on Rondo’s denial, since the four-time NBA All-Star point guard has little choice but to claim he wants to remain in Boston until the time comes to move on elsewhere. He and the Celtics would gain nothing by making his desire to be dealt a public matter. Yet, the rumors persist, and it’s not all that difficult to discover why.

The Celtics are expected to enter their second season of a rebuilding project with seven players aged 24 or less, whiffing on Kevin Love and the big-name free agents available this summer. Rondo will turn 29 in February and becomes a free agent in July 2015. He made his intentions of testing the market known – one reason a trade demand makes little sense unless he has certain teams in mind – and Cedric Maxwell has said Rondo wants somewhere in the neighborhood of a five-year, $100 million max contract from the Celtics.

It’s hard to imagine Rondo wanting to be part of a lengthy rebuild, and equally difficult to see Danny Ainge committing that much money to his lone star without the promise of another to pair with him.

So, where does that leave us? With a whole lot of rumors and no trade, apparently. If Ainge liked the Kings offer, he could have pulled the trigger at the deadline in February or on draft day in June. As MacMullan and Isola point out, few other teams would have the pieces to land Rondo, and even fewer are in need of his services.

The C’s seem willing to wait on their point guard’s future, hoping his play ups his trade value while Ainge continues to pursue other stars in an attempt to convince Rondo the rebuilding process won’t be as long as it appeared once Love went to Cleveland. In other words, everybody’s in the same holding pattern they were a week ago.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

With training camp a month away, here comes more Rajon Rondo rumors.

With training camp a month away, here comes more Rajon Rondo rumors.

In a recent appearance on ESPN’€™s Around the Horn game show, ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan ‘€“ during a behind-the-scenes clip from the episode ‘€“ was firm in her take that Rondo is hoping to get out of Boston.

‘€œIt will happen because he’€™s told them, he wants out,’€ MacMullan said. ‘€œNo one believes me, but that’€™s the truth. And I don’t see how you get 80 cents on the dollar for him. Tell me where.”

MacMullan went on to say that Rondo has told the Celtics he will ‘€œflat-out’€ not re-sign with Celtics.

The subject of Rondo possibly reuniting with former coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles also came, with MacMullan responding, ‘€œ[Rivers is] done with Rondo. I mean, they went a good long way together, but that guy Rondo drives him nuts.’€

To see the entire interview, click here.

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While both former and current college athletes are eyeing ways to extract money from the mighty NCAA — and rightfully so, in many cases — Jeff Green is giving back to his alma mater in a big way.

While both former and current college athletes are eyeing ways to extract money from the mighty NCAA — and rightfully so, in many cases — Jeff Green is giving back to his alma mater in a big way.

The Celtics forward donated $1 million to Georgetown University, according to the Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate. His donation will go toward the projected $62 million John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center.

“I’m very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the university and to the program that has done so much for me,” Green told CBS DC on Thursday, his 28th birthday.

While Green has made an estimated $31.7 million in his six-year NBA career since leaving the Hoyas in 2007, the donation is no small chunk of change, even considering his $9.45 million salary this season.

Green spent three seasons under John Thompson III at Georgetown from 2004-07, leading the Hoyas to the Final Four in his third season, and returned to school each summer until graduating with an English degree in 2012.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.

  • Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Straight face.
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Smiles all around.

The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.

“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”

Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.

“Very, very young,” he told Hoop China. “They make me feel old. They’re very young. I’m excited to play with them. They have a lot of energy. James Young’s a great shooter, and Marcus Smart is known for his defense, so we’re going to need that energy from the young guys, and I look forward to playing with those guys.”

In addition to Rondo’s salient points about energy and individual skill sets, I counted three times he used “very” in as many sentences, and a roster that young creates an obstacle this season on his road to a stated goal.

“I want to win a championship,” added Rondo, who proclaimed himself “in great shape” to Sina Sports. “I want to win another championship. I want to continue to improve as a player. I have a lot of individual goals, but for the most part in the team aspect I want to get back to being a contender and compete for a championship.”

While Bradley recently declared the Celticshave a chance to make the playoffs” this season, the consensus outside the locker room is that this is a lottery team once again in the second year of a lengthy rebuilding project.

And, to his credit, Rondo seems to understand that.

“You can’t have a great team every year,” he said. “No one does. If you do, you’re very fortunate, but in the NBA it’s a long season. You can’t win every season. You can’t win every game. It’s just part of it, and you want to continue to try to get better and grow as a player and as a team.”

Throughout last season, Danny Ainge preached this same philosophy, suggesting Rondo has been lucky not to have endured stretches like Paul Pierce did early in his career, and perhaps the current Celtics captain is accepting that fact — a glimmer of hope that he could be willing to re-sign in Boston next summer.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Consider Avery Bradley the first to declare the Celtics a playoff team this season, and he won’t be the last. In all honesty, would you want a player who entered the season already resigned to the lottery?

Consider Avery Bradley the first to declare the Celtics a playoff team this season, and he won’t be the last. In all honesty, would you want a player who entered the season already resigned to the lottery? Of course you wouldn’t.

“I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to [Celtics caoch] Brad [Stevens],” Bradley told reporters from his youth basketball camp in Dartmouth. The former Second Team All-Defensive selection added, “I feel like we have a chance to be a top-10 defensive team in the NBA this year.”

While any NBA player worth his salt — and Bradley’s new four-year, $32 million deal can buy an awful lot of sodium chloride — should believe both statements to be true, the question is whether either is believable. The Celtics finished with the league’s fourth-worst record (25-57) and ranked 19th in points allowed per 100 possessions (108.6). Have they done enough to climb 14 games in the standings and allow .025 fewer points per possession?

Barring a trade, the Celtics will feature at least 10 of the 15 players who finished last season. They’ve replaced Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless with Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton while adding Evan Turner and a pair of rookies. Marcus Smart is the only one of the bunch who comes with a solid reputation defensively, and he’s expected to play behind Rajon Rondo to start the year. That’s not much of a sales pitch.

Rondo is the wild card, of course, and Bradley suggested his backcourt mate has returned to form as the player who earned Third Team All-NBA and Second Team All-Defensive honors during his last healthy season. While a three-headed monster of Rondo, Bradley and Smart could theoretically form one of the league’s grittiest guard groups defensively, the Celtics still lack the rim-protecting big Danny Ainge sought this summer. Are you confident Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green can hold down the frontcourt? Me neither.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference’s other sub-.500 squads all took steps forward. The Hawks return a healthy Al Horford. The Knicks surrounded Carmelo Anthony with a few more serviceable players, including Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. The Cavaliers did something, although I can’t quite remember what it was. The Pistons hired a coach with a history of winning two-thirds of his regular-season games. And the Magic, 76ers and Bucks respectively added young talent, a healthy impact center and a combination of the two.

So maybe it’s a stretch to imagine the Celtics a playoff team with staunch defense. Or maybe Stevens can extract career years from Rondo, Bradley and Jeff Green; help Olynyk, Zeller and Jared Sullinger make the leap; expedite Smart and James Young‘s contributions; and invent a time machine for Gerald Wallace. Either way, the only way the C’s come close to proving Bradley right is to match his confidence entering training camp.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach