NBA Beat: Kings, others may have goods to facilitate Rondo deal

Rajon Rondo is the last major piece left from the Celtics teams that won an NBA title and made another Finals appearance in the past seven seasons.

Mike Ehrmann

Rajon Rondo is back for the Boston Celtics, but there’s no telling if he’ll still be there in a month.

Rondo missed a year with an ACL injury. When he went down, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were still on the team, Doc Rivers was still the coach, and the Celtics were still considered a contender in the East.

Now, Rondo returns to first-year NBA coach Brad Stevens and a bunch of young guys who are still trying to find their way.

The Celtics are happy to have Rondo, of course. But according to a report in the New York Daily News, they are open to moving him.

"Rondo is the last blue chip from the 2008 championship team and 2010 Finals team that Celtics president Danny Ainge can convert into assets as he rebuilds the franchise," Mitch Lawrence wrote in the Daily News. "More than a few GMs around the league expect Rondo to be on the move, if not at the trading deadline next month, then maybe in June at draft time."

With that in mind, here are five entirely hypothetical landing spots:

1. Rondo to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

As Lawrence noted in his column, Rondo is still viewed as a top-five point guard. And from the sounds of things, the Timberwolves may need to make a splash soon if they hope to keep All-Star forward Kevin Love. Acquiring Rondo in a package involving Ricky Rubio could possibly benefit both clubs.

2. Rondo to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It seems unlikely that the teams would revisit the Rondo-for-Pau Gasol talks that were reported over the summer — until you consider Gasol’s $19-million contract expires at season’s end. Still, the C’s may want an asset in the form of a draft pick, and the Lakers can’t really deal anymore. But the idea of Gasol coming off the books could be tempting for Ainge. It would open up room for other moves this summer.

3. Rondo to the Detroit Pistons.

It’s hard to fathom the Celtics wanting to take back Brandon Jennings, the Pistons’ flashy point guard. Winning hasn’t exactly followed Jennings, and his contract doesn’t expire until 2016. But a first-round pick (along with Jennings) or a separate deal involving Greg Monroe (and not Jennings) may entice Boston.

4. Rondo to the Houston Rockets.

Imagine a lineup of Rondo, James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. You could basically afford to trade the Celtics just about anyone else. What would the Celtics want? Well, young Rockets forward Terrence Jones has looked good lately. But again, any deal involving Rondo will likely have to include draft picks. Rockets GM Daryl Morey seems to truly covet those.

5. Rondo to the Sacramento Kings.

Interestingly, Ainge was traded from the Celtics to the Kings in 1989 (for centers Joe Kleine and Ed Pickney). As for today, new Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro and coach Mike Malone are hoping to pump some life into the franchise and rebuild quickly. The Kings are a young team with tons of assets. They should make a Rondo-DeMarcus Cousins-Rudy Gay trio happen. Perhaps more than anyone else, the Kings have the goods to make a Rondo trade work.

Hold the Mayo?

Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him coming out of high school (or USC, for that matter).

Mayo was drafted third overall by the Timberwolves in 2008, but immediately traded to Memphis for Kevin Love. Bet the Grizzlies are still pained over that one.

After Memphis, Mayo landed in Dallas, where the Mavericks were hoping he’d become option No. 2 behind Dirk Nowitzki. That never really panned out, and Mayo signed a free-agent deal with Milwaukee over the summer.

Today, Mayo’s role with the lottery-bound Bucks appears to be diminishing, and much like earlier in his career, he sounds frustrated.

"It’s hard to get a rhythm when you don’t know what’s going to happen for you night in and night out," he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "You may get 6 minutes, 30 minutes. There’s no staple to what we’re doing."

Larry Drew is in his first season for the Bucks, and any excitement for this team won’t come until the draft lottery in May. If the Bucks could move Mayo, they likely would. But that will be difficult given his new contract (believed to be three years for $24 million) and history of inconsistency.

Rumor Mill

— Speaking of the draft, the Bucks are said to be enamored with Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, considered a top-five prospect. It’s hard to envision the Bucks taking Smart No. 1 overall in a draft that’s likely to also include Kansas’ Joel Embid and Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, and others. But a lot can (and will) happen between now and the draft in June.

— The Bucks are still very open to moving center Larry Sanders prior to the Feb. 20 trading deadline, sources said. They would have to take back some salary, but it appears draft picks are their priority.

— Final Bucks note: Unlike a lot of other struggling organizations, Bucks GM John Hammond and especially, owner Herb Kohl, don’t want to undertake a long rebuilding plan that involves few reasons to be excited. Sources indicated the Bucks would be more than willing to trade for veterans who could offer immediate (as opposed to focusing only on starting a major youth movement).

— The New Orleans Pelicans could potentially explore deals involving swingman Tyreke Evans or guard Eric Gordon, or both, according to the Daily News.

— League executives expect Jordan Crawford to benefit the already-tough Golden State Warriors immensely. Crawford was obtained from the Celtics last week in a three-team deal that also involved the Miami Heat. He can play both guard spots in reserve and has already made a bit of an impact with his new team. "He can create his own offense," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "There’s a reason we went and got him, and he hasn’t disappointed."

— Cleveland’s Mike Brown, Philadelphia’s Brett Brown and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer are just three of the names who have emerged from under Gregg Popovich’s coaching wings in San Antonio. Next up could be former NBA forward and current Spurs assistant Ime Udoka. Like most of Pop’s guys, Udoka is on a lot of opposing team’s radar should their current situations not work out.

— This isn’t expected to be a big offseason for coaching changes. At the midway point, the only folks supposedly on the hot seat are New York’s Mike Woodson and possibly Utah’s Tyrone Corbin. Then again, league sources say the Jazz like Corbin. And if you look at their history (Jerry Sloan, and Frank Layden before him), the Jazz don’t fire coaches.