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Should Rajon Rondo Sit Out the Season?

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COMMENTARY | As Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo continues to recover from his ACL tear that he suffered in January of the 2012-2013 season, speculation is flying over when the superstar may return. Some have suggested that Rondo could return early in the season while others have cited recent comments by Celtics forward Jared Sullinger as proof that a recovery date in December is more likely. And while nobody except Rajon Rondo, his doctors and the Boston coaching staff actually knows when his ACL will be healed, a growing number of voices in the media are suggesting that the star guard should sit out the remainder of the season, regardless of when he is physically ready to return.

In a recent story featured on Masslive.com, Celtics reporter Jay King includes himself among a list of growing supporters of the "keep Rondo off the court" coalition. Other members of the media who agree with King include CSNNE.com's Rich Levine and CBSsports.com's Matt Moore. The argument the three writers promote is essentially that because the Celtics are going to be a losing team no matter what happens, Rondo should stay off the court in order to be certain that his body is completely healed and to help Boston's chances when the ping pong balls fall to determine the 2014 draft order.

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Why the Celtics absolutely must play Rajon Rondo when he's healthy

In August, I wrote an article advocating for the Celtics to trade Rondo, and one of the primary reasons I presented for the move was that it would help Boston attain a higher pick in the deep 2014 NBA draft. In that sense, I agree with King, Levine and Moore; a losing season for the Celtics may be better for the long-term success of the franchise. There is, however, a rather significant difference between trading a player with the added bonus that it may help a team's draft position and sitting a superstar NBA player in the prime of his career when he is totally healthy and on the roster.

For starters, sitting Rondo when he is healthy enough to play is a slap in the face to the thousands of Celtics season ticket holders, all of whom are spending a lot of money to see a team that has absolutely no chance of a championship in 2013-2014. Second, I think asking Rondo to sit when he is healthy is unfair to Rondo. Not only does this mean that he misses out on playing the game he loves at the height of his career, but it would also damage his potential earnings after the 2014-2015 season, when his current contract ends.

Third, and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of a Boston Celtics fan, sitting Rondo puts Boston in a very difficult position in the 2014 offseason. The Celtics would have only one more year left on Rondo's very reasonable contract and would need to determine at that time whether they should trade him while his value is still high or sign him to a long-term deal. In either case, having Rondo sit when he's healthy in the 2013-2014 season creates more headaches than it is worth.

The super-competitive superstar, who would likely be pretty unhappy with having to sit out the 2013-2014 season, may be turned off by the entire experience and want to leave the team. If he does want to leave Boston, the Celtics won't be able to get nearly as much for him as they would if he had been totally healthy and productive during the 2013-2014 year. Teams would essentially be asked to give up huge talent for a guy with only one year left on his contract who hasn't played in over a year. Who would be dumb enough to pull the trigger on that move?

[Related: Doc Rivers wishes Celtics hadn't traded Kendrick Perkins in 2011]

If Rondo did decide he wanted to re-sign with the team, how would the Celtics even know what he is worth at that point? Do you really want to give a player who hasn't played in over a year and who just injured his ACL a maximum contract without first proving he is healthy? You could, of course, always just let Rondo play half of the 2014-2015 season and then decide what to offer him. This however, is another bad move, because if Rondo decides he doesn't want to stay in Boston, it would be hard to get fair value in a trade for him. This would mean the Celtics would then have to run the risk of letting Rondo walk without any compensation at all.

Even if none of those issues turned out to be a significant problem (an impossibility in my mind), sitting Rondo still slows the development of the younger players already on the roster. If you want Kelly Olynyk, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger to truly play at the highest level possible, you can't afford to have your offensive facilitator riding the pine in the hopes that you get lucky in the draft lottery, an event which the Celtics have had terrible luck in over the past decade.

With all due respect to King, Levine and Moore, all of whom are great writers, the idea that Rajon Rondo should sit out the season despite being totally healthy is an absolutely horrible idea.

Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy

Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.

Statistics provided by Basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.

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