Rajon Rondo: The Kyrie Irving Backup Plan

It’s the nightmare we fear to wake up to. The pit in our stomach that grows with each tweet from Brian Windhorst or Chris Hayes. You get the feeling those in the media kinda want it to happen. They subtly cheer for your favorite team to crash violently in the dirt. The negative media environment makes me hesitant to even check in on my favorite Celtics podcasts, such as “The Rainin’ J’s”, “Celtics Beat” and “Celtics Stuff Live” for fear of them validating my fears.

They all speak of one man and where he will play basketball next fall.

Will Kyrie Irving leave the Boston Celtics? A team that, by all accounts, has done nothing wrong by him or have given any indication they are unable or unwilling to build a title contending team, all because one season went awry? Possibly. We are in the era of “Player Empowerment.” Despite the air quotes, this is the appropriate label for the period the NBA is currently in. Kevin Durant is about ready to leave the Golden State Warriors after two championships and three straight Finals appearances. Why? Simply because he feels like it. Winning doesn’t matter to players anymore. And let’s be honest, it probably never did. Last summer we seen LeBron bolt a seemingly weak conference where he could coast for an entire season and still make it out of the East to go to Los Angeles simply to make movies. If winning doesn’t matter to LeBron then it’s safe to assume it matters to no one.

If Irving departs Boston for New York, he’s insane. If it’s for the Lakers, he’s doubly insane and it’ll be a heel turn for the ages. Irving and Durant are weird, sensitive and reclusive individuals. Nobody can get a feel for what they are capable of doing. They could form a super-team one day and rapidly decide to change their minds before the ink is set to paper. The Celtics franchise is at the mercy of a cosmetic hippy who told a packed TD Garden he intended to re-sign in Boston seven-months ago. Now he wants us to ask him on July 1st.

It’s Irving’s life. I don’t have any control over it, nor should I and neither should you. But we’re fans. We at least deserve the right to bitch and moan when a rich man makes a decision we don’t agree with.

The options to fill in the gigantic shoes of Irving are slim and to make matters worse the Celtics are over the cap and have limited resources this summer. Armed only with rights to their own free agents (Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier), minimum contracts (Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams and Brad Wanamaker) and a sizable war chest to make trades if they want to risk the future for a quick-fix.

As far as free agency goes the Celtics only big fish they can conceivably sign is the player they already house in Irving. If he leaves, look out for possible reunions with journeymen guards such as Darren Collison and former friends Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas. The last two are likelier to not be priced out of Boston’s modestly sized Mid-Level-Exception, worth about $5.4 million. I’d prefer Ricky Rubio, but I think we’re getting Rondo

I’d rather have Rubio. He’s younger an better on both ends of the floor. But he will likely be out of Boston’s price range. Rondo is damaged goods, so his value is at an all-time nadir. Their last two seasons aren’t all that different. Rondo looks better if you apply context to his last two years jumping to Los Angeles and the clown show the enviably follows LeBron at every stop.

Ricky Rubio last 2 seasons
41.2 fg%, 33.2 3p%, 12.9 pts, 5.7 ast, 4.1 trb, 1.5 stl, 14.7 per .104 ws/48

Rajon Rondo
43.8 fg%, 34.6 3p%, 8.7 pts, 8.1 ast, 4.6 trb, 1.1 stl, 13.8 per, .077 ws/48

I might as well preemptively start the hype-up process for Rondo…

Dude can still play. While guilty of phoning it in on defense, a players engagement level usually hinders on how the team is playing as a whole. Irving’s defense these last two seasons in Boston, under the team-first culture banner, has been his best outings on the opposite end of the floor in terms of effort level. Rondo can gamble for steals and potentially can take charges if he’s engaged.

Rondo is very much someone who’ll thrive in an environment that isn’t toxic. Los Angeles was toxic. Same with Sacramento. After his stops in Dallas and aforementioned Sacramento everyone wrote off Rondo as a has-been. Since then, he’s signed with New Orleans in the one year the team got its act together and made a respectable playoff run.

Rondo is definitely guilty of playing the role of “Bizzarro-Kobe,” to be more specific and raunchy an assist-whore. Given the circumstances the Celts are facing in their first year without a superstar and where they have to start building around The Jays, it’s best to give them a guard who’ll not hesitate to give them the ball.