Grab 'bag: Trading the captain?

Every now and then, we dive into our Celtics Mailbag and pull out a question to tackle in the blog. With plenty of hype after Rajon Rondo's return to game action on Friday night, this seemed like an important one to tackle in the aftermath:

Q: With Rajon Rondo being named captain, does that dispatch any trade rumors? -- @JohnnyBarlow (via Twitter)

A: From the moment the Boston Celtics traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and reaffirmed often in the seven months since, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has noted that the Celtics believe Rondo is the cornerstone of their franchise and the guy they plan to build around moving forward.

When he was introduced Friday night as the 15th captain in franchise history, it only cemented that notion. It's hard to imagine the team bestowing the captain's crest on Rondo, then turning around a month later and dealing him for future assets.

Alas, any conversation about his return has invariably turned to "Will the Celtics trade Rondo?"

Let us hammer home again what Ainge has repeated: The Celtics believe they have an elite player, a superstar they are capable of building the next iteration of their core around moving forward. It wouldn't be a shock if Rondo's name bubbles up in trade rumors as it has every February in recent years, but it would also be a surprise if it wasn't immediately squashed by Boston brass.

Keep in mind the obvious: Like the fact that Rondo's value is as low as it can get coming off ACL surgery, or that the initial minute restrictions will limit how much he can increase his value before Feb. 20. And remember that the only time the Celtics have really contemplated a Rondo swap was when they were getting Chris Paul, an MVP-caliber player in return.

No, it's far more likely that Boston's trade activity the next month will involve the players around Rondo. The next three months are very important for the Celtics, something Ainge hammered home the other day while discussing Rondo's impending return.

Asked if he likes how his team looks after a pair of in-season trades, Ainge noted, "We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of good positive things that are happening with our team and a lot of good development with a lot of our young guys. We have some good veteran guys who have set great examples, hard-workers for our young guys. And I feel like we’re figuring out who we want on the bus."

Well, Rondo's driving the bus. Now the Celtics have got to decide which passengers are getting booted by Feb. 20 (that'll depend on what the rest of the league is willing to give up) and tougher decisions loom this summer when someone like Avery Bradley enters restricted free agency.

The lesson, as always, tread carefully with rumors as they crop up over the next month. These wheeling-and-dealing Celtics will invariably be linked to deals, but keep in mind their long-term plan when trying to determine what swaps might actually be legitimate.

And if they involve Rondo, you can probably go ahead and regard them as false.