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Grantland: After the trade

Grantland examines the beginning of a strange new season for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and their respective teams after the summer blockbuster between the Celtics and Nets:

This season, the Celtics are defined by their absences. Sullinger talks about passing on the lessons of "Garnett University"; Brandon Bass says the team swaps stories about their old warhorses almost every day. Then there's the absence of Employee No. 9.

Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL in January, travels with the team and runs through non-contact workouts. He's vocally onboard, calling Stevens his new "best friend." They talk and trade texts all the time, and Rondo has even accepted self-actualization reading assignments from his new coach. He says Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is his "favorite book." "I haven't read this much since college," he adds.

But ask Rondo when he'll return to the court and he'll respond, deadpan, drawing out the syllables, "In the two thousand thirteen ... two thousand fourteen ... season."

Meanwhile, we speculate. Will Ainge want Rondo out as long as possible to improve lottery odds? Will he hustle him back for a few weeks around the new year to reestablish Rondo's trade value, then ship him out? Will he get over his fear of commitment and pop the question: Rajon, will you sign this max contract? The 2014 trade deadline is February 20. Between then and now, the rumors shall fly.

But it's hard not to pine for Rajon to stick around.

(Read full story on Grantland)