Rumors about the New York Knicks' potential interest in Rajon Rondo simply won't go away.
Less than three weeks after Rondo's former high school coach said that Carmelo Anthony was recruiting Rondo to join him in New York, league sources told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst that the Knicks have concocted a potential plan to pry Rondo from Boston before he reaches free agency:
Even as there has been growing speculation with Anthony's future, the Knicks seem to be quite sure he's going nowhere. And they've already got his help lined up. According to league sources, the Knicks' first prong is to try to attract the Celtics' Rajon Rondo. This idea has been tossed around in various forms for a while now, it's not shocking. But the way the Knicks are hoping to get Rondo is a little unusual.
It's not in free agency in 2015 but later this season or next summer when he comes back from a torn ACL. The Knicks are hoping Rondo will be interested in making a maneuver similar to what Anthony did back in 2011 and eventually try to force a trade to the Knicks, sources said. The Celtics have consistently denied they want to trade Rondo. But once this trade deadline passes, and it isn't clear if he will even play before February, Rondo will have only one guaranteed season left on his contract. Like with Anthony when he applied pressure to the Denver Nuggets by threatening to leave in free agency, the Knicks wonder if Rondo will be able to have a say in where he might be traded if the Celtics end up fearful he'll leave in free agency.
That may seem contrived, yes, but this isn't a made-up scenario. It is a genuine option. You have to give the Knicks this: It has worked before. If that fails -- and who knows how Rondo will mesh with this Celtics team, it could work well and he could want to stay -- the Knicks fully believe they will get one or two of the following in free agency in 2015 when they expect to have large salary-cap space: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Tony Parker or Rondo when his contract is up. Under certain circumstances, [LeBron] James himself could be a free agent again that summer.
The first inclination is to point and laugh, but let's play along. A handful of thoughts and reminders here:
RONDO TRADE IS UNLIKELY THIS SEASON: Danny Ainge has screamed it from a mountaintop every chance he's gotten (and few have listened), but the Celtics want to see how this team fares with Rondo as its centerpiece and believe he can be the guy they build around moving forward. With Rondo suggesting this past weekend that he's not likely to be back on the floor until late January or early February, it's hard to imagine the team seeing enough in less than a month's span to (1) Decide the team's future based on that glimpse and (2) Entertain trade offers from teams, especially when Rondo is still reestablishing his value coming off ACL surgery. The Celtics are more likely to use the final three months of the season to determine whichs parts work best with Rondo and shape the roster around him moving forward.
THINGS ARE A LITTLE MURKIER AFTER THIS YEAR: Next season, Rondo will enter the final year of his contract, one that will pay him a reasonable $12.9 million. Let's say that, for whatever reason, the Celtics determine Rondo is not the centerpiece of their future or they simply don't want to pay him upwards of max money on his next deal, there is the potential that they would look to move him sometime between July and February. His reasonable contract value makes it likely that another team would have to offer a combination of established talent and future assets (and, more likely, eat some of Boston's cap clog in the process). Which brings us to the Knicks...
WHAT CAN THE KNICKS OFFER?: The Knicks don't have a first-round pick to offer until 2018 having already dealt away its 2014 and 2016 picks (the Stepien Rule is protecting the Knicks from further mortgaging their future by not allowing them to trade away first-round picks in consecutive drafts, though they could offer a swap of places with their few remaining picks). There's reasonably priced young talent (Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr.), but not seemingly enough to land a talent like Rondo (you don't trade an All-Star without getting one in return). The bottom line: Even if the Celtics decided to move Rondo, there's almost certainly teams out there that could offer much more intriguing packages than what New York could concoct. The Knicks have mortgaged their own future in previous attempts to put together winning teams and it's biting them now.
When Doc Rivers was here he used to joke about wanting LeBron James to come play in Boston. That doesn't mean it was going to happen. The Knicks can cross their fingers and hope Rondo finds his way to New York, but maybe they ought to just focus on making better personnel decisions regarding what they can control.
Bonus link: Over at ESPN Insider, Tom Haberstroh says the Knicks are dreaming.