Celtics expect another down year

Brooklyn Nets forward Mason Plumlee (1) blocks a shot by Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) as Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) defends from behind during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 at Barclays Center in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics didn’t get the franchise player they need from the draft.

Now general manager Danny Ainge must decide whether to buy another ticket for the NBA lottery or put together a package of picks and players like the ones that brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007. Until he does, the Celtics will likely be stuck in the middle again: Too many wins for the lottery’s grand prize, and not enough for a long run in the playoffs.

“I know this isn’t a championship team,” point guard Rajon Rondo conceded at media day, “but we’re going to go out there every night and play hard.”

Rondo is once again the centerpiece for the Celtics as they head into the 2014-15 season, but not for the reasons he might hope. Even if he comes back from recent injuries to run Boston’s offense like the All-Star he has been the last four years, the franchise’s future is still probably more dependent on his trade value.

Having shipped off Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Garnett last summer, Rondo is the last remaining piece from the team that won the franchise’s 18th NBA title in 2008 — Rondo’s second year, and the first for the New Big Three of Pierce, Garnett and Allen. Rondo is also the most valuable asset the Celtics have on the trade market, not counting the draft picks they collected when they dismantled the team last summer.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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