The Brad Stevens hire was such a shock to everyone that it is still taking some time to sink in. Nobody saw this coming but many are applauding it for the outside-the-box creative thinking by Ainge and the Celtics ownership. It is the perfect time and situation to take a leap on a talent like this and he'll have time to grow into his role at the same time as some of the young talented players around him will. I can't help but agree with this sentiment.
There is another thread of thinking, however, that I don't necessarily agree with. The instant reaction from many corners is that this move signals the fact that Rajon Rondo will be the next to go. For example:
The hiring of Stevens indicates a trade is upcoming for Rajon Rondo, who is among the smartest and most stubborn stars in the NBA. Rivers is known for being able to cajole with, reason with and confront players as well as any coach in the league, and it required the full array of his talents and three decades of NBA experiences in order to maintain a constructive relationship with Rondo. Ainge understands the strengths and weaknesses of Rondo better than anyone. It is hard to imagine him introducing Stevens to the NBA by pairing him with Rondo, who would routinely question moves and undermine the new coach before he could develop a working knowledge of the league. Stevens, more so than Rondo, represents the future of the Celtics now.
I understand the logic behind such an argument, but I don't think it must be so. Rondo is stubborn and opinionated and has no problem letting the coach know what he thinks should be done. I've pointed out before that Rondo has clashed with his coach (at least at first) on every level.
But here's the thing, once he and the coach get on the same page, they can and usually do work beautifully together. His high school coach adores him. Doc Rivers relied heavily upon him, even at an early age. Even Tubby Smith admitted that he didn't have the ideal system for Rondo and has a high degree of respect for him.
Rondo is a chess master, always thinking 3 steps ahead and off the beaten path. Here's the thing: so is Stevens. Both defy conventions. Both are exceptional at thinking through problems and seeing things that others miss. If they can skip past the rocky transition or at least get over it quickly, they could be a formidable pair for years to come.
The first thing on the schedule for Stevens would be to at least make an appearance at the summer league, but his highest priority should be sitting down with Rondo. He should lay out his coaching philosophies and some of his ideas on how he would like the Celtics to run. My advice to him is to be open and completely honest. I imagine Rondo is one of those guys that can smell a faker a mile away. But if Stevens invites Rondo into his circle and allows him to partake in the planning and strategy, he might find a willing and capable ally.
The key will be knowing just how far to allow that while still maintaining authority over the team. The NBA is indeed a players league but the coach still needs to be the lead voice in the locker room. Rondo too needs to see this as his big chance to shed his label and perception as a coach killer of sorts. He's got the chance to make things work for everyone and if he's as smart as everyone says he is, he'll take this opportunity to prove everyone wrong (which is another thing he enjoys doing by the way).
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Rondo is untradable. If you can get another young All Star talent or perhaps a sure-thing lottery pick in next year's draft (if that's even possible to predict) then you have to think about it. But I'm not in favor of dropping a guy that has the talent to be one of the top 10 players in the league just for the right to drop some salary and go into "full tank mode." Because the upside to full tank mode is hopefully, maybe getting a guy that... might be as good as Rondo. Doesn't make sense to me, but what do I know?