NBA AM: Celtics Preparing To Trade Rondo
The Boston Celtics’ championship window behind the Hall of Fame bound trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen has seemingly slammed shut with a thunderous thud this season.
The veteran-laden team has struggled just to hover around the .500 mark the entire campaign, failing in the process to even come close to re-establishing themselves as one of the league’s elite.
The club’s core won a title together in 2008 and last appeared in the NBA Finals in 2010, losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But their biggest opponent, father time, has apparently delivered the final lockout blow to the team, and in the process has prompted the Celtics’ front office to actively begin the reloading process.
According to an ESPN report by Chris Broussard, the Celtics are aggressively shopping All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and plan to move him before the upcoming trade deadline passes (March 15).
To be clear, this isn’t the first time this season Rondo’s name has emerged in trade discussions.
Rondo was linked to the package the Celtics were offering to acquire All-Star guard Chris Paul from New Orleans back in December. His name also emerged in talks with the Golden State Warriors for their ultra-talented, but oft-injured, guard Stephen Curry.
On the record, executive director of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ainge has publicly been a vocal supporter of Rondo and has consistently denied the team is actively shopping the point guard.
However there are those around the organization who believe Rondo’s penchant for being involved in verbal altercations with head coach Doc Rivers and moody behavior off the court in general isn’t worth the headache over the long term.
Ainge has maintained all along he wouldn’t allow the Celtics to relive the dark years the franchise endured after Larry Bird and Kevin McHale retired and even hinted earlier this season he’d be willing to part ways with his big three if the right deal would return promising young talent and draft picks.
But as HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler pointed out earlier this week, sources close to the situation maintain that the only way the Celtics trade Rondo before the upcoming trade deadline is if the returning package positions the club to make a strong run at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
An NBA source also has disputed Broussard’s report telling the Boston Globe the Celtics are “listening” to offers that come in from teams around the league for Rondo, but aren’t actively looking to unload him from the roster.
Even if Boston doesn’t move Rondo this season a choice must be made by their front office.
Is he their franchise player going forward in the post Big Three era?
The 26-year-old Rondo’s stock may be at an all-time high this season, coming off his third All-Star appearance and averaging a career high 14.1 points per game.
As currently constructed the team is no longer amongst the ranks of the league’s elite.
The question is whether Ainge will pull the trigger and trade one of his core players – something the great Red Auerbach ultimately decided against doing twenty years ago when faced with the same situation.
Ekpe Udoh Unfazed By Trade Rumors: As we approach the trade deadline one team which figures to get a lot of ink is the Golden State Warriors.
The future whereabouts of the club’s bigger names such as David Lee, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry figure to dominate the trade rumor headlines moving forward but outside of star players there are always the role guys who are included to either make the financials work or provide their new team with relatively inexpensive talent betting on upside.
One Warriors player who fits the bill is athletic forward Ekpe Udoh, the No. 6 pick of the 2010 draft.
Udoh admits he hears his name mentioned in trade talks from time to time but ultimately ignores most of the reports which surface.
“I don’t pay any attention to [trade rumors],” Udoh told HOOPSWORLD. “I just go about my day. At the end of the day it’s a business. The only thing you can control is coming out and playing hard.”
Based on the team’s performance to start the season Udoh also understands if the trade winds ship him or one of the squad’s star players away.
“We’re united but at the end of the day you have to start winning games,” Udoh said referring to the best way to stop trade rumors from surfacing.
The second year forward is averaging 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in just about twenty minutes of action per night which on the surface isn’t a huge bump from his rookie season averages. However he also boasts an impressive average of 3 blocks per 36 minutes of court action which has drawn interest around the league.
Although he’s shooting only 42 percent from the field, an extremely low percentage for a power forward, Udoh is laying his hat on his defensive prowess being the bread and butter and feels his offense will eventually breakthrough.
“It goes hand to hand,” Udoh said on being comfortable on offense and defense. “Playing defense is what I do. My emphasis is on defense. It’s tough but I’m starting to put it together [offensively].“
Udoh is a promising young defensive talent but currently stuck behind the former All-Star Lee on the depth chart.
The Warriors entered the season with playoff aspirations so if the team could net a solid piece in return for Udoh in trade it isn’t out of the question that the club would at least listen to the proposal.
No Ownership Announcement Expected For Hornets Today: Last week NBA commissioner David Stern forecasted the announcement of a new owner for the New Orleans Hornets on March 1.
Stern appeared to back off the prediction somewhat during All-Star weekend this past Saturday.
“We’re a little bit behind because we haven’t concluded our deal with the state yet,” Stern said. “But I think it’s moving closer day by day. It’s progressing well, but it’s not finished. We expect to have it finished, I’m told, in the next week or 10 days, and that’s the period of time that we would like to hopefully have this deal for the sale of the club come into much sharper focus.”
According to reports, there are two potential ownership groups vying for the rights of the franchise.
The first, a California-based consortium pushed by swimwear manufacturer Raj Bhathal, partnered with Larry Benson, Mike Dunleavy and an assortment of local New Orleans minority investors.
The second is headed by former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest.
The group led by Bhathal is widely thought to be the frontrunners in the bidding war, with Chouest’s group the backup if things fall through.
Hornets chairman Jac Sperling isn’t feeling the pressure to close the deal on March 1 and maintains the original plan was for the league to relinquish ownership duties by mid-2012 to begin with.
“We’re continuing to make progress,” Sperling told Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune on Wednesday night. “We’re moving ahead with potential purchasers, a couple groups, and also on the state front. We’re making good progress and are still very optimistic that we’ll have an announcement prior to June 1. We’re moving ahead and trying to get it done as quickly as we possibly can. I think everybody’s got that same objective, and I’m totally optimistic that we’re going to have an announcement.”
Sperling is also actively involved in developing the framework of a lease extension with state officials that would keep the franchise in New Orleans through 2024 with no escape clauses.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s publisher Steve Kyler who will hold down his weekly NBA Rumors Chat at 10:30am EST. Get your questions in now as the chats do fill up fast. Senior NBA writer Joel Brigham will host his weekly NBA Chat at 1:30pm EST. Joel covers the Central Division for HOOPSWORLD. Mark Nugent will round out the day with his weekly NBA Chat at 6pm EST. You can always find the next chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats.