In a rebuild, conventional wisdom might be to tear it down as quickly as possible so that a foundation can be put down as soon as possible. Sell off anything of value and start fresh, right? That might work for a fixer upper in Quincy, but managing an NBA team is completely different.
This weekend, there was the a flurry of trade talk involving the Knicks and Celtics. Some of them surrounded a package of Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and Amar'e Stoudemire for Rajon Rondo. Another included super subs Gerald Wallace, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Bass. Tankers might find these quick fix solutions to adding more ping pong balls to May's lottery and a great way to clear the books for the future but neither--especially the prior that includes our best player--make any sense. This morning, Ainge denied the rumors that Rondo was on the block; it could be some gamesmanship on his part by playing the long con or he's actually exercising some restraint in what could be a very impactful months for the franchise.
Ainge expects no inquiries, too: "People know that Rondo is a big part of our future & that we're not going to trade him."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) November 18, 2013
Here's some food for thought as we enter the trade rumor section of this season:
Quantity over quality. The glass half full approach to the number of expiring contracts on our ledger is that they're either expiring in the short term (Kris Humphries, 1 year, $12M and Keith Bogans, 1 year, $5M), role players on affordable deals (Courtney Lee, 3 years, $16M and Brandon Bass, 2 years, $13M), or large enough to include multiple players (Gerald Wallace, 3 years, $30M). That's a lot of flexibility for Danny to work with and the longer he waits, the more valuable these assets are. Come January or February, contenders looking to shore up their benches will be calling Waltham trying to find a piece that could put them over the top. Teams throwing in the towel or heading in a different direction will try and clear the books and possibly unload a disgruntled young player for an expiring contract. Patience is a virtue that Ainge must aspire to over the next few months. Consider this: one Amar'e Stoudemire albatross contract is worth roughly Kris Humphries/Brandon Bass/Courtney Lee combined except that Stoudemire hasn't been cleared to play more than 10 minutes a game right now and Hump/BB/Lee are all more-than-serviceable role players that can be packaged in multiple combinations or all by themselves.
Omer Asik. There's a cat-and-mouse game going on in Houston right now with Asik requesting a trade, the Rockets denying his demands, Asik talking to management and the team, and the two making up. That cycle is going to continue over the next couple of months. If Ainge has any inclination of making a deal with Daryl Morey, he has to hold on to his assets and watch the drama unfold. It's very early and teams won't start getting desperate until the new year.
Playing it out. The team is 4-7 right now, but they could easily be .500 or better. Those first four games could have gone either way. What's clear is that there's a vision in Boston and that Brad Stevens is building something here that mimics the championship culture that's been with this franchise forever. Despite our three game losing streak, I think this team could turn it around. Maybe they're not bound for the playoffs, but potential free agents need to see the Celtics as an attractive landing spot. Trading away very productive pieces for spare parts could spiral the team into a losing mentality and nobody wants to be a part of that. It may hurt us lottery-wise, but FA-wise, nothing is more attractive than being a winner (even at .500 ball).
The trade exception. As outlined by ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, the restrictions on the $10.3M trade exception generated by the Brooklyn trade last summer are pretty strict. Because of the Bogan's sign-and-trade, Boston is hard capped at $75.75M this season and they also want to stay below the luxury tax threshold of ~$71.5M. Odds are, if Danny wants to use it, it'll be used in that two-day window between the end of the NBA transactions moratorium on July 10th and the trade exception's expiration date of July 12th. Why is this important? Again, it's a matter of asset management. If the Celtics have the opportunity to bring in a quality player at $10M, they may need to hang on to the expiring contracts that are already at their disposal. As enticing as it might be to bring in a back up guard like Felton (it's not) or a defender like Shumpert (super-secret/not-so-much-a-secret-anymore knee surgery), the money value of a contract (and eventually allowing it to expire) could be more enticing in the long term.
It's the Knicks. Outside of the Lakers and Heat, there may not be another team out there I'm less willing to help out, even if it's the best thing for the Celtics. I can't be the only happy Celtics fan watching the tire fire that is the New York Knicks right now.