In the 2007 offseason, the Celtics made a push to become a champion again. It meant giving up a haul of players for Kevin Garnett, as well as making a push to acquire Ray Allen. With Garnett and Allen on the team, combined with mainstay Paul Pierce, the team had a formidable Big 3 that made a push to the NBA Finals, where the team won the 2008 championship.
One of those other mainstays was Rajon Rondo, the team’s starting point guard, who was also an All-Defensive Team member. Rondo was always hustling and had the grit to him when it came to winning that meshed incredibly well with Garnett. The following season, the Celtics failed to make it back to the NBA Finals, which led to the 2009 offseason.
After two years, the Celtics were okay with splitting up their big three, as well as getting rid of Rondo for a package of players in Detroit. An offer was on the table that would have potentially shaken up the 2010 NBA Finals. The Pistons denied this request, which was nearly a mega-blockbuster trade in the summer of 2009.
The Trade Details
Boston Celtics Receive: Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey
Detroit Pistons Receive: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen
The Celtics were supposedly shopping both Rondo and Allen during the summer. Rondo was coming off his third season in the league, where he averaged 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 1.9 steals. Meanwhile, Allen averaged 18.2 points and shot 48.0% from the field, which included 40.9% from the three-point range.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, who was working for Yahoo Sports at the time, there was legitimate merit to this rumor. Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge was looking to see if the Pistons would take on the contracts of both Rondo and Allen for Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Stuckey. There were also reported concerns about Rondo’s maturity level.
“There has been some friction with Rondo, largely based on maturity. No issues with him are insurmountable, but Ainge has never minded shopping ideas around the league. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine a deal that Boston could do with these two players that would give them a chance to stay a championship contender around Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.”
Joe Dumars Shot Down The Trade
Woj wrote that this was not “uncommon” for Ainge to make a call to league officials. With that said, Woj said that neither Ainge nor Dumars formally talked about the trade. The details were submitted, but it was going through lower-level executives, which ultimately got to Dumars, who shot down the trade.
“Boston general manager Danny Ainge and Detroit’s Joe Dumars never spoke, but rather the Celtics had a lower-level executive make the pitch to a Pistons official over the past weekend, league sources said. Detroit immediately rejected the idea, and it never advanced to the two top executives speaking about particulars.”
If you take into account that Allen was turning 34 years old and was owed $20 million on an expiring contract, you can understand why Ainge made the call. Plus, despite Rondo’s exceptional 2009 playoffs, if you look at history, Rondo has had multiple run-ins with head coaches, so having questions about the younger version of him is not a completely ridiculous thought either, especially when a long-term contract extension was being talked about.
Celtics Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Rodney Stuckey
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Kendrick Perkins
The Celtics would have lost two starters in this deal only to receive a young point guard in Stuckey and an established scorer in Hamilton. Hamilton was coming off a season where he averaged 18.3 points per game. It would come down to a what would you rather have scenario. The 2009-2010 season was the last time that Hamilton averaged a high quantity of points, finishing the season with 18.1 points in just 46 games.
Allen would ultimately stay with the team longer and have more success, so this would have been a one-year successful rental where Hamilton didn’t play a full season. Replacing Hamilton for Allen still might not be enough for the Celtics to win the NBA Finals in 2010. Stuckey was also just a second-year player with no real playoff success.
Pistons Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ben Gordon
SG: Ray Allen
PF: Jonas Jerebko
C: Ben Wallace
On paper, this would have been the year the true rebuild would have started. If you think that Rondo had problems in Boston, imagine him at this age playing for this team that would have been worse than his Boston team. Rondo would have left at the first chance he got or asked for a trade. As for Ben Gordon, maybe Rondo’s presence would have helped, but Gordon went from averaging 20.7 points per game to just 13.8 points. His future seasons were steady declining seasons.
Allen’s contributions wouldn’t have been enough to lead this team far and he would have likely left after the year was over as well. Jonas Jerebko was a rookie after being selected with the No. 39 overall pick in the draft, while Ben Wallace was back with the team after a stint with the Cavaliers. He was also in the regressing stages of his career. This lineup might have been good enough to secure an eight seed.
Stuckey eventually left the Pistons in 2014 in free agency, but the Pistons were entering a period where the team was hovering in the middle of the standings with no clear future. Meanwhile, Hamilton was bought out in 2011 and he joined the Chicago Bulls, where he was a key piece of the “Bench Mob.” Prince stayed with the team until 2013 and was traded in a three-team trade that featured Jose Calderon.
For the Celtics, Rondo stayed with the team until 2012 but had substantial success with the team. He was eventually traded to the Mavericks for Jae Crowder and a first-round pick, which was a terrible trade for Dallas looking back. As for Allen, he left the Celtics in 2012 to join the Miami Heat, which ultimately led to a 10-year emotional hiatus from the team. Because this trade never happened, it led to two very different paths for the team.
After the 2007-2008 season, the Pistons began to see their dynasty fall. The team would go seven years before having a winning record. The team made the playoffs after 2008-2009, but the team had traded former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets. Allen Iverson, who came over in the trade, left after the 2009 season. Ben Gordon saw a significant dropoff after coming over from the Bulls, while Ben Wallace was an older player. Allen would have left the team after one season and still potentially joined the Heat, but this time it would have been two years sooner.
As for the Celtics, the team kept their core together and were a championship contender for three straight years. In 2010, the Celtics made the NBA Finals but were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers, who had won their second straight title. In 2011, the team was defeated in the semifinals, while 2012 was the real emotional season. The team made the Conference Finals where the team met LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to only get defeated in a tough, physical series.
After bowing out, Allen left the Celtics, which infuriated Kevin Garnett, who thought the Celtics were good enough to beat Miami. It led to Allen’s exodus from Celtics personnel and fans who took Garnett's side. It wasn’t until recently this year (2022) that Allen was seen embracing Garnett and Pierce, proving that the past was left behind by everyone. In the end, not making the trade was the best move Ainge could have done.