Ainge looks to keep Rondo on rebuilding Celtics

Ainge looks to keep Rondo on rebuilding Celtics
July 1, 2013, 8:15 pm
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BOSTON — Considering the moves made by the Boston Celtics on draft night, it's not that far-fetched to believe the next player on his way out would be Rajon Rondo.

But even as reports continue to surface that Celtics and Mavericks were in trade discussion about Rondo and that he is available for the taking, Danny Ainge maintains that he's not looking to move his four-time all-star point guard.

"The calls are coming in, the calls have not been going out," Ainge told reporters on Monday moments after introducing the two newest members of the Celtics family, first-round pick Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson, who was drafted in the second round with the 53rd pick overall (the Celtics bought the pick from the Indiana Pacers).

"I think that the assumption is that, (considering) what we are trying to accomplish," Ainge said, "the reports are such that maybe the assumption is that we'll give away any of our players."

Ainge added that in addition to Rondo, he has had calls about Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger as well as Olynyk.

But of those players, the one that catches the most attention is Rondo who is still on the mend after suffering a torn right ACL injury on January 25 against Atlanta.

Most of the talk about Rondo's return has been positive, but there's no telling whether he will be back in time for the start of the season or whether his injury will keep him sidelined even longer.

Regardless of his uncertain return date, Ainge can expect more calls from teams void of an elite point guard like Rondo, trying to feel out Ainge to see if a deal to acquire Rondo can be struck.

"I'll always listen to calls and listen to what ideas are," Ainge said. "But we have no intention of moving Rajon."

The focus right now among the C's and Rondo's camp, is to make sure he's ready to go as close to the start of the season as possible.

While the Celtics would love to have Rondo back in time for training camp, there's a chance he might be limited to some degree if he returns that soon.

"I'm sure training camp will be some maintenance, but opening day is a goal of his and ours," Ainge said. "But there's no certainty in any of that. We think things are going well. That's still a good goal to have."

And when it comes to goals, there's no mistaking that Boston's mindset now is on building towards the future instead of being a contender today.

But make no mistake about it: The plan for the C's is to eventually build themselves back up to where they are a title contender, the kind of process that always takes longer than anyone in Celtics Nation would like.

Ainge must continue to purge his roster, something that will be done in earnest following the completion of the multi-player, blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets which can't be official until July 12.

Then there's figuring out who among those players acquired, is worth keeping around and along those lines, who among the players slated to return should be sent on their way via trade.

In the midst of all that, Ainge must find another coach. And on Monday, he reiterated that search would not include himself.

"That's not in my future," he said.

At that point, he may turn his attention to free agency.

But with only a mini-mid level available at a time when the C's are focused in part on keeping their financial house in order with the intent being to stay as clear as possible away from being a repeat tax offender which goes into effect next season.

"It's important," Ainge said. "We don't want to get into that repeater tax mode. The good news about our team and our owners in particular, is they have proven a willingness to pay the tax. But you don't want to pay tax just to pay tax. Our ownership will pay tax, if needed."

But with the moves Boston is making this season, it doesn't make sense to pay taxes on a team that's more likely to contend for ping-pong balls than a playoff berth.

And while the return to elite status is a winding path with lots of hurdles along the way, Ainge remains confident that someday - hopefully sooner rather than later - the C's will be back among the league's top teams.

"I expect us to be a championship contender," Ainge said. "Absolutely."