News » Rondo's future: C's bank on it

Rondo's future: C's bank on it

Rondo's future: C's bank on itThe Celtics had little choice but to agree on a contract extension with Rajon Rondo. Without him distributing the ball, the Big Three wouldn't be nearly as effective.

But Rondo soon will find out that big money changes everything. He spent his first three NBA seasons as an underdog who kept improving and helped the Celtics win an NBA championship in his second year. If he missed an open jumper or a free throw, fans didn't get on him because he was a young point guard who entered the league as a late first-round pick. He wasn't supposed to be a superstar.

But after agreeing to a reported $55 million for five years starting next season, Rondo will rank among the NBA's highest-paid point guards and face much greater scrutiny. J.D. Drew would be a decent right fielder for $5 million a year, but at $14 million, he's considered an underachiever.

"Nothing changes," Rondo insisted after practice yesterday at HealthPoint, "still got one goal in mind. It's great to have security and all, but we are still focused on winning a championship."

Rondo could help the Celtics win another title this season, but that accomplishment would come while he's earning $2.1 million in the final year of his current deal. The big money doesn't kick in until next season. That's when the expectations will skyrocket. Rondo insists he'll be ready for them. And with his future set, he can relax and play for now.

Danny Ainge, president of Basketball operations, believed in Rondo before anyone else. Others shied away from him because of his weak shooting and battles with Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, but Ainge loved his point-guard skills and toughness. Ainge had the Phoenix Suns select Rondo with the 21st pick in the 2006 draft, then trade him to Boston with the expiring contract of Brian Grant and cash for a future first-round pick.

When Ainge acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett the following summer, he refused to include Rondo in either deal, and instead traded Delonte West to Seattle and Sebastian Telfair to Minnesota. These days, West is experiencing all sorts of personal problems with Cleveland and Telfair comes off the bench for the lowly Clippers.

Rondo and his agent, Bill Duffy, were prepared to allow yesterday's signing deadline to pass and have Rondo become a restricted free agent at season's end, but Ainge agreed on Sunday to meet Duffy's price. Rondo may have earned more money by waiting until this summer when the Celtics could have matched any offer, but he realized that an injury this season would have cost him millions.

Besides, he knows the Celtics , who visit Philadelphia tonight, are a good fit for him.

Ownership deserves credit for coming up with the money. The Celtics could have used the expiring contracts of Rondo and Ray Allen ($19.8 million this season) to go after Dwyane Wade or another member of this summer's free-agent class, but they apparently decided to give much of Allen's money to his backcourt mate. Rondo's deal could signal the end of Allen's days as a Celtic unless he agrees to a huge pay cut.

Rondo is only the sixth Celtic under contract for next season, joining Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Paul Pierce, who has a player option.

The question about Rondo has been, and probably always will be, his jump shot. He'll never be another Ray Allen, but he doesn't have to be in order to be effective. Last year, he ranked fifth in the league in steals, sixth in assists, and sixth among guards in rebounds despite being only 6-foot-1. During the playoffs, he really opened some eyes by averaging nearly a triple-double.

The Celtics are only four games into their season, but Rondo ranks second in the league to Steve Nash in assists with 11.8 a game, and leads all NBA guards with a 5.22 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Rondo has been so content at penetrating and finding the open man, he has taken only 23 shots in four games. Eddie House has taken three more shots in less than half the playing time.

If Rondo remains a Celtic for the length of his contract, he may have to lead them through a rebuilding era. Perkins may be around for another five years, but it's unlikely that any of the Big Three will be.

Nevertheless, Rondo insisted he wants to remain a Celtic for life.

"It's a great system," he said. "I love playing for Coach (Doc) Rivers. Danny's a great general manager. The teammates I play with, I wish they were a lot younger. They'll be retiring in a couple of years, but other than that, I'm having fun doing what I'm doing."

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Added: November 5, 2009


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