The lottery is very, very important. The draft itself will be telling and key to the future. What Ainge does with trades and free agency (including Avery Bradley) will be really interesting. But none of them are as important as what the team will do with Rajon Rondo.
I still believe that Rondo is worth more to the Celtics than to any other team, so the only real reason the team would have to trade him is if they didn't think Rondo was up for the long haul rebuild process. I say long-haul because barring a miracle 2007 re-boot, it will take a little while to get back to being a championship contender. Playoffs, maybe, but legit contender? That's harder. Which is why so few teams are in that discussion each year.
So is Rondo ready to take things year by year and suffer through another year or more of being an also-ran? It sounds like this is a legit concern.
(Note: This is an excerpt from an excellent in-depth look at Rondo by Baxter Holmes. I recommend it highly.)
But will the notoriously impatient Rondo have the patience for a rebuild? "That’s where I have my only concern with Rondo," Rivers said. "He’s extremely competitive, so that’s hard." Rivers’s story about Orlando, McGrady, and the underestimated difficulty of rebuilding — especially for a star player — was shared with Rondo. "He’s right on the money," Rondo said. "It’s difficult. It’s a frustrating process." Pierce agreed: "I try to forget those days, because those are your trying days, man."
Ainge, for his part, offers a different perspective.
As for rebuilding, Ainge said, "Listen, I feel like there's a time when we're all patient with one another. Right now, we're being patient with Rondo as much as he's being patient with us. He's not 100 percent. "But I think he is with us. I think he is patient and understanding."
So will he or won't he? That is the question. It is a question that could very well determine the direction Danny Ainge goes with the team - as early as this summer.
Obviously Rondo is a bright guy. He knows that the majority of the league is stuck in rebuilding or also-ran status. He knows that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Teams like the Kings and Pistons will always come calling with offers to Ainge, but that doesn't mean that the fit there will be any more beneficial to Rondo than it is here.
It almost certainly is in Rondo's best interest to just play things out next year and then see what the market has to offer (not just financially, but in terms of fit and future potential), regardless of which city it is in. Then again, much like Garnett, it sounds like Rondo has a desire to see things through in the place where he is now.
With that said, as I've said before, I'm not sure how much loyalty Rondo has to the organization that has put him in trade rumors just about every year and has systematically traded away each of his best friends on the team. The team had every right to do those things, but you can't turn around and ask Rajon to forsake his own personal agenda in the name of loyalty. He's got to do what's best for him.
Of course, I can ramble on and on, in article after article suggesting guesses about what Rondo might or might not want to do next and it wouldn't do anyone any good. Rondo is as much of a closed book as an NBA player can be and he'll do what he thinks best, regardless of what you or I think of it. So I guess we'll just have to wait and see.