Danny Ainge went on the record recently to say that Rajon Rondo could be healthy and ready to play by opening night. The first game of the year would only be eight months removed from when Rajon tore his ACL, an almost record recovery time for an NBA player.
This takes the idea that the Celtics will be tanking the season and turns it on its head.
Having Rajon Rondo back, even near full strength, for opening night changes how the Celtics will be approaching this season. It’s been accepted by many, including Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, that Rajon is the best player on the Boston Celtics and that the team goes as he goes.
Adding Rajon to the active roster isn’t just adding a small piece, it’s adding an All-Star and potential top ten NBA talent. He is talented enough to carry this team to the playoffs, especially if Jeff Green can be the scorer he was during the second half of the season last year.
It’s a surprise that Danny came out so early and made this a public statement. Training camp doesn’t open until the end of September, a full two months away from where we are now. This would seemingly put a lot of pressure on Rondo to come back for the start of the regular season, something that is unnecessary with our expectations so low for winning basketball games.
Most fans expected him to be out until at least January, based on the severity of his injury and the assumption that the Celtics would be tanking. The ulterior motive for this announcement could also be to raise Rajon’s trade value. Danny saying that he expects Rondo back for the first game of the season could be meant more for the 29 other front offices than it was for anyone else.
If Ainge really wants to tank and believes that he can get a potential Hall-of-Fame player in the upcoming draft then he needs to unload Rajon before the season and this could have been just another step in raising his value. It sounds cold-hearted for Ainge to do something like this but, especially in light of recent trades, we know he is ruthless when it comes to doing what he believes is right for the franchise.
Whatever it means, whether it is just good news about Rajon or an attempt to raise his trade value, we know that Rondo himself wants to be back. He’s one of the most competitive athletes in the league and will push himself as hard as possible to get back in record time.
After watching Derrick Rose sit out after being cleared, I believe Rajon took it as a personal challenge to get back faster than any NBA player has ever returned and to do it stronger. Rose and Rondo have long been competitive, dating back to the 2009 playoff series that the Celtics won in seven games, and this would be the latest in their back and forth battle.
By Josh Viola: @JoshViola19