Well, the Circus has packed up and left town... and made a beeline for Cleveland.
Lebron James stunned us again, albeit in a much more sincere manner, and made the announcement that he will return to his hometown to play for the Cavs. Almost the entire NBA offseason had been put on hold and with the first King sized domino falling, it seems probable that the rest will follow quite rapidly. Chris Bosh seems likely to go west to the Rockets and try to give the Spurs and Thunder a run for Western Conference supremacy. I still believe Carmelo will pick the money, and stay in New York; as long as Lebron is around the East is going to have to be fought tooth and nail wherever he goes and with the Zenmaster Phil Jackson in New York now, the train wreck known as the Knicks may finally be cleaned up (perhaps courtesy of a reunion between PJ and Pau Gasol?), but I am also hoping he picks Chicago to see the playoff clashes between the Cavs and the Bulls with a (hopefully) healthy Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Melo led by Coach Thibodeau.
But the domino that has and will continue to intrigue Celtics fans, is Kevin Love. Even with Lebron, the Cavs are still not quite in the super team category. They dont have a Big 3, and several of their major pieces are still quite young, and they lack playoff experience. So it would not be the least bit surprising if, in an offseason in which theyve already landed the biggest fish, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued to be major players in the market for superstars. And according to the biggest fish among the sea of NBA Reporters, Adrian Wojnarowski, the superstar the Cavs plan to pursue is one Kevin Love. Somewhere, Danny Ainge is biting his fingernails. From the moment Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to Brooklyn, Ainge along with owner Wyc Grousbeck were adamant that their goals were to return the Boston Celtics to contender status as quickly as possible. Reload, was the hope but refresh or retool would be more accurate following a near ground to ceiling rehaul of the roster. Save for the last remnant of the championship squad, Rajon Rondo of course.
But as options dwindled, it became apparent that our best hope of acquiring a super star before Rondo hit free agency in the summer of 2015 was trading for Minnesota's superstar Power Forward. Love seemed agreeable to Boston and with a stash of draft picks, Ainge seemed well positioned to swing a deal. Unfortunately, in what seems to have become a recurring nightmare for the Boston Celtics, the lottery ping pong balls bounced the wrong way and the Cavs won the lottery with their 1.7% chance. Then came the news that Minnesota GM was more interested in player assets than picks, and suddenly our pipe dream of Rondo and Love was fading. With newly drafted Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs appear to be one of the few teams who can put together a better offer than the Celtics. And it is for these reasons that I think it may finally be time for Danny Ainge to turn to plan B, whatever that may be.
It seems probable that Plan B involves continuing to rebuild/stockpile assets and accept our current situation, while building towards the future and remaining hopeful that another star becomes available. But does Rajon Rondo fit into Plan B? Even if Kevin Love does take his talents to Cleveland, it is still not a certainty that another super star will become available. But the trade market seems scarce and the Celtics are already tight to the salary cap. Even Jackie MacMullan said she believes Rondo will be traded. I have never been quite as high on Rondo as others but it would be sad to see him leave. But at this point in time, it is also quickly becoming our best option. Without a guarantee from Rondo that he will re sign next summer (especially taking into account his max money aspirations), it seems entirely too risky to lose Rondo for nothing.
Ainge may not be satisfied with Rondo's current market value, but after Love is traded, I do expect to see an uptick in his trade stock. And looking at the current roster composition, we seem to be far closer to a rebuilder than a contender. Getting more young players and even more picks would be far from the worst thing in the world and Houston was ultimately able to acquire 2 superstars without having one of their own to draw them. Adding in more young players to Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, James Young and Kelly Olynyk and letting Brad Stevens really have the young, moldable roster that he seems best suited for could make for an interesting team in 2015 and still leave us in a good position for the future.
While I have no idea where Rondo may end up I am starting to come to terms with the idea of trading him. There are a lot of young teams on the brink of contention out there filled with young talent that may decide to expedite their process by turning their assets into an immediate return the way Ainge hoped to. There are also teams that seem to have hit a brick wall of a plateau that will trade away their up and coming stars for an established, playoff tested superstar. You never know what lies out there but for now I am excited to see how Danny Ainge plays his hand.