Celtics boss Danny Ainge is a man saddled with caveats.
The ideas running through his head since he took over as Lord of the Green in May of 2003 have likely included things like:
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“There’s no way we’re trading Paul Pierce. He’s been the face of the franchise for the past 15 years. He just means far too much to the organization, and hell, I believe he can still play, too. He’s staying here … UNLESS we can get some foolish, desperate GM to cough up a handful of first round draft picks over the next decade.”
“There’s no way we’re trading Al Jefferson. He could be the face of the franchise for the next 15 years. He just means far too much to the organization, and hell, I believe he could be the next great post player in the NBA. He’s staying here … UNLESS we can get some foolish, desperate GM to cough up one of the five best players in the league.”
This week, those nettlesome Rajon Rondo trade rumors popped up once again. The rumored deal again involved the New York Knicks and again the proposed offer was decidedly, “blah.” The C’s wouldn’t receive any franchise-altering player in any Knicks swap and New York has zero first round draft picks to offer up until 2018. A deal with the Knicks would basically allow the Celtics to clear a ton of salary cap space after next season, when they could be a major player in the free agent market. Considering the three best Celtics free agent signings of all-time are (in no particular order) Xavier McDaniel, Jason Terry and a 34-year-old, hop-less Dominique Wilkins, this big-name free agency idea leaves a lot to be desired.
So, I believe Ainge rightfully won’t send Rondo to Manhattan before next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. I believe Ainge rightfully sees Rondo as a building block to the next great Celtics team and putting him next to a young 2014 NBA Draft stud is the safest route back to respectability. In other words, Rondo is staying here … UNLESS Ainge can find some foolish, desperate GM to cough up a first round lottery pick in this year’s draft or a handful of first round draft picks over the next decade.
First round draft picks in the NBA are something close to priceless and Ainge would be the richest front office man in all the land if he could somehow find another sucker like Billy King. Ainge would truly have endless options to build a contender over the next few years if he could just get his hands on a few more “firsties.”
Would a Sacramento or an Orlando or a Charlotte be willing to give up a coveted pick this year for Rondo? Would the Lakers, in desperation mode to get one more title out of Kobe, bite? Probably not. But one has to believe that Ainge would consider making a deal with one of those teams in order to get, not one, but two lottery stabs at the Jabari Parkers, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiids and Julius Randles of the world.
The chances of Ainge making a trade before next week’s deadline dwell somewhere in the high 90s, percentage-wise. Just how big of a trade he’ll make really all depends.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS