10 Years of Ainge: Ainge pulls off draft night deal for Rondo

Without a doubt this was Danny's second best move if not the best 'someday'. The trade of Antoine Walker in 2003 was linked to Rondo in 2006. So maybe that deal wasn't such a bad thing. Even though the Celtics probably would have traded another player to get Rondo. Jiri Welsch was involved in both deals.

The Boston Celtics acquired University of Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo and veteran forward Brian Grant from the Phoenix Suns. In return, the Suns will acquire a future first round pick the Celtics acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for swingman Jiri Welsch.

Rondo finished his collegiate career with Kentucky by being named to the Second Team All-SEC as a sophomore by league coaches. He started 62 of 68 career games for the Wildcats, and in his sophomore season led the SEC in assists, averaging 4.9 apg and ranked second in steals (2.0 spg), while averaging 11.2 ppg and a team-high 6.1 rpg. He scored in double figures 17 times, and registered five games with 10 or more rebounds. Rondo was a member of the 2005 USA Men's U-21 World Championship Team which captured a gold medal at the Global Games held in Dallas, and finished fifth at the FIBA World Championships in Argentina. Rondo's 27 steals set a FIBA World Championships competition record. He was a social work major at the University of Kentucky.

Brian Grant played his 12th season this year, appearing in 21 games for Phoenix, starting two. He averaged 2.9 ppg and 2.7 rpg in 11.8 mpg. In 1998-99, Grant was the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in recognition of his outstanding community service and charitable work.

Here's an article from a few years ago when Rondo led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in 2010.


But Celtics principal owner Wyc Grousbeck knew how much Ainge liked Rondo and also knew that Ainge had saved the franchise a ton of cash in the LaFrentz deal. He trusted Ainge's instincts. So it was Grousbeck who posited to Ainge the challenge that resulted in one of the greatest draft picks in the history of the team.

"I told him, if you can find a team, go buy a pick and take Rondo," Grousbeck said. That was enough for Ainge. He found a taker in his old team, the Phoenix Suns, who were sitting on No. 21. Phoenix agreed to draft Rondo if the Celtics would surrender a first-rounder in 2007 (which Ainge had procured from Cleveland in a deal for Jiri Welsch) and take on Brian Grant's contract.

Rondo was available at No. 21 because there had been some red flags at Kentucky. He had had a brilliant freshman season at Kentucky, only to slump a bit as a sophomore. He clashed with Tubby Smith, his coach at Kentucky. He couldn't shoot from the outside and was a terrible free throw shooter. But he could defend. He could rebound. Boy, could he rebound! And he had a fire that Ainge liked and, as a headstrong player himself in his day, could identify with and understand.

"Sometimes not getting along with your coach is not a bad thing," Ainge said.

In terms of what the Celtics got and where they got it, Rondo ranks as the greatest unexpected draft bonanza in the history of the franchise. Nothing really comes close. (Only five years earlier, the Celtics passed on Tony Parker at No. 21 for Joseph Forte.) Ainge himself was a great pick, but he had the baseball issue hovering over him. Reggie Lewis (No. 22) might have ranked as the greatest steal had he lived long enough.

To get someone at No. 21 and have him turn into an All-Star in this day and age is almost unprecedented. In terms of value for the position, it has to rank at the top. In terms of overall picks that required risk taking or maneuvers, I put it in the top six. (I don't consider the drafting of Paul Pierce a risk pick. He fell into the Celtics' laps.)

And of the five ranked ahead of Rondo, all were top-10 picks coming off full collegiate careers.

Ainge saw something very special in Rondo, and without Rondo today. Who knows where this franchise would be. Yes they may have won banner 17 in 2008, or they may have not. I think we under sale Rondo from that season. The Celtics would have never competed for a title in 2010,and almost win for that matter. The same goes for 2012 when the Celtics forced Miami to seven games. The future is still bright. Who knows what direction this team goes. If Danny is still in love with Rondo's game. Then this team should commit more then they have. As for the deal. Danny will perhaps never pull off another draft night steal like that again.

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