BOSTON — Danny Ainge doesn't pay much attention to the outside chatter from fans and media when it involves his players.
But there was no way he could escape the rumblings that the Boston Celtics were better off without Rondo, especially after the C's reeled off seven straight wins to start the team's Rondo-less stretch of the season.
But the playoffs validated Ainge's longstanding belief that Rondo's true value to this team comes to light in the playoffs.
As the Knicks pulled away in the series before winning it in six games, the absence of Rondo was apparent throughout. The Celtics struggled to get in and out of their sets, putting a significant part of the playmaking responsibilities on Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley with both having their struggles at times managing the squad while at the same time playing their game, too.
Players went out of their way to use Rondo's absence as an excuse. But again, not having a four-time all-star and as Doc Rivers pointed out, the only point guard on the roster, it presented a challenge that few teams have been able to successfully navigate through in the postseason.
"If anybody had any doubts about the whole Rondo impact on a team, all you have to look at is the last five years of the playoffs and look at this year's playoffs," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "Having a player with the ability to take his game (to another level) and score when the defenses are so great . . . those guys are very, very rare."
Rondo's right torn ACL injury kept him out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. And in each of the last four postseasons in which he has participated, Rondo's scoring average has increased.
Knowing how teams tend to take away your primary weapons in the playoffs, Rondo has indeed been the one steady force offensively that the Celtics know they can lean on when the postseason arrives.
Rondo's unique offensive ability is among the many reasons that Ainge expects Rondo to be with the C's next season.
As he is every summer, Ainge is willing to talk to any team about any player. But knowing what Rondo means to the C's and how small the pool of comparable talent is around the NBA, moving him to another team and getting equal or near-equal value in return is highly unlikely.
Plus if the C's decide to trade Paul Pierce or buy him out, that may trigger Kevin Garnett's decision to either retire or push the C's trade him to a title contender. Moving Rondo would leave the Celtics with a squad of little substance and even less sizzle.
Ainge has always maintained that Rondo's value is extremely high, which is why the only serious talks he has had in recent years to move him involved Boston's pursuit of Chris Paul, who has been a top-five MVP candidate each of the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the past few years, Rondo has been arguably the Celtics' best player in the postseason and at times, the best player in playoff series that included four-time MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and another league MVP, Derrick Rose.
"When you're the best player on the court with those guys . . . there's only five, 10 guys that have the ability to do that," Ainge said. "People just forget that stuff."
But Ainge hasn't, which is why the one thing that Rondo does best -- step up in the postseason -- may be the biggest reason to keep him in the fold.
"I never get caught up too much in the ebbs and flows of the regular season," Ainge said. "That's really over-rated when your objectives are to win playoff games. I always look at basketball players and how they perform in playoff situations."