WALTHAM, Mass. — The Boston Celtics say they’re not actively trying to trade point guard Rajon Rondo.
Amid reports that he’s willing to explore that possibility, Danny Ainge, the team’s president of basketball operations, said Thursday “I don’t anticipate” breaking up his core of four stars — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rondo.
Ainge and coach Doc Rivers met with the media for the first time since the NBA lockout. The session was held at the team’s practice facility, but there was no sign of any players, who were allowed to begin working out there Thursday.
Sports Illustrated first reported that the Celtics would be willing to give up Rondo to get Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Paul can become a free agent after this season.
Asked if he was actively seeking to deal Rondo, Ainge said, “I’m not,” but he knows that rumors are always around.
“Trade rumors are part of the world we live in,” he said. “It’s a media circus out there. Everybody’s name has been in trade rumors and everybody’s name will. If you’re worth your salt you’ll be mentioned in a trade somewhere along the line. That’s just part of the business that players have to learn to live with as well.”
He said he addresses rumors with players involved in them.
“I’ll talk to Rondo, but I won’t talk to you about what I said to him,” Ainge told reporters. “Rondo will be fine. Rondo knows that we love him. He knows that we like him, and he’s excited to come back and play basketball.”
Rondo and Paul are two of the NBA’s top point guards, but Paul is a better shooter.
“I’m not going to compare him to the other guys but I think he’s one of the top point guards in the NBA,” said Rivers. “Rondo has established that. There’s a reason (that) whatever this thing leaked out that it’s all over the news. It’s because the players that they’re talking about are both really good.
“Rondo has established that through his play. Listen, he is a great basketball player and he does so many things for our team and he should be flattered in a lot of ways that this is news.”
Ainge isn’t surprised when other teams ask him about Rondo.
“He gets a lot of attention. He’s a great player. There’s a lot of people that call me and ask me about Rondo,” he said. “We didn’t leak those rumors out. We’ll deal with it. He’ll be fine.”
Ainge has plenty of other concerns.
With only six signed players, he must fill out the roster. NBA training camps and the free agent signing period begin on Dec. 9 with the regular season expected to start on Dec. 25.
Ainge said, perhaps jokingly, that he hopes to have “at least 10″ players ready for camp following last season’s five-game elimination by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We need size,” said Ainge, who also is looking for a backup point guard and wing players. “We have a lot of needs – our whole bench.”
The six signed players are Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Rondo, center Jermaine O’Neal, and second-year guard Avery Bradley. Restricted free agent Jeff Green has received a qualifying offer, meaning the Celtics can match any other offer he receives. Forward Glenn Davis and guard Delonte West are unrestricted free agents, and Ainge said he’s contacted their representatives to see if they can be retained.
“Every year is a challenge and brings different challenges,” Ainge said. “We have a list of players that we’d like to get. … Right now, there’s a lot of money out there, a lot of teams with (salary) cap space, so players are waiting for the big pay days. So we have to be patient in this process.”
At least the Celtics have a season to prepare for after the long labor dispute.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to do my job again and I am really looking forward to this season,” Rivers said. “You’ve just been kind of in a holding pattern to get started — obviously, in Danny’s case, trying to fill out the right roster for us. And now we can do that, or at least get started on doing that.
“I’m just excited that we can get going.”