Rondo rumors linger as trade deadline nears

Rondo rumors linger as trade deadline nears

Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) brings the ball up court during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the Sixers 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

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by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports

khou.com

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 12:34 PM

If one of those inflatable mascots that are all the rage these days were ever assigned to represent the latest NBA trade deadline week, it would most certainly have to be a turtle.

A turtle with a leak in it.

After months of speculation and expectations that there would be no shortage of trade action this time around, the air left the proverbial room on Wednesday when there were only the smallest of deals to be had during the slowest of trade seasons. The Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets swapped veterans (Marcus Thornton going East, Jason Terry and Reggie Evans going West), and the hot topic for much of the afternoon and early evening was whether the Nets would add Los Angeles Lakers center Jordan Hill and thus spike their already-absurd payroll over the $200-million barrier.

The chatter about Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and where he may wind up continued, but there were no signs a blockbuster deal was nearing.

Trade deadlines can be funny that way, with much of the activity often coming in those final hours before the deadline (3 p.m. ET Thursday) comes and goes.

While the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings were already known to be among the four or five teams pushing for Rondo of late, a new possibility emerged when ESPN reported the Houston Rockets would have interest in pairing him with the likes of Dwight Howard and James Harden. Yet a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports late Wednesday afternoon that the Rockets and Celtics had not spoken about such a deal. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the talks' private nature.

The Kings have made it clear to anyone who will listen that rookie guard Ben McLemore will not be traded before the deadline. He's precisely the sort of player who would seemingly have to be in any Rondo deal, making their situation one of the many non-starters on this front. Still, this situation is worth tracking if only because it appears to be the only potential for a deal involving a star player.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has all the leverage here, as he has consistently said that he's more-than-happy with Rondo being part of his rebuilding effort and the fact that the point guard has one more season remaining on his contract means time is not of the essence. But if someone sweetens the pot in those final hours, perhaps with first-round draft picks and young prospects and money-saving moves and the like? The slim chance remains that a deal for Rondo could go down.

Outside of Rondo rumblings, the Memphis Grizzlies have been shopping for an upgrade at small forward with 33-year-old Tayshaun Prince in his worst season as a starter. Yet a deal that could have netted them just such a talent, 25-year-old Chase Budinger of the Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as veteran point guard J.J. Barea, went nowhere because of the T'wolves' insistence on getting defensive specialist Tony Allen in the deal.

Plan B, it seems, involves the pursuit of Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Grizzlies — who have won 15 of their last 19 games and are hesitant to give up too much of their core group in any deal — are among the many teams pursuing Barnes.

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