Yesterday, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge confirmed on 98.5 The Hub’s Toucher and Rich show that the team has already discussed a contract extension with point guard Rajon Rondo:
Of course, Ainge acknowledged that he never believed Rondo would sign an extension so early in the negotiating process. Why not? Let’s hear from Trader Danny himself:
In the collective bargaining agreement, there are limits on what can and can’t be done. Really, it’s not that Rondo doesn’t want to accept an extension, as much as it’s just not financially smart for him to accept it right now. We didn’t think he would [sign], but we did try.
In other words, agreeing to an extension now would leave a whole lot of money on the table for Rajon Rondo. The longer Rondo waits, the better the offers he will receive . . . especially if he waits until the close of the 2014-2015 season, when he will become a free agent and will almost certainly make, in Ainge’s words, “star money.”
So – if Ainge and the Celtics never really believed that Rondo would agree to an extension at this point, why did these talks even occur? Well, there’s two theories that I have:
1. Beginning talks now proves to Rondo that the Boston Celtics are serious about rebuilding around him.
This is the theory that the optimistic, Boston Celtics- and Rajon Rondo-loving side of me hopes is accurate. If the Celtics are 100% committed to rebuilding around Rondo, they have to prove it to their point guard beyond a shadow of a doubt. Naming him the 15th captain in franchise history was a good start; reaching out to him and saying, “We’re going to be up front and honest to you about your contract” is the next. Too many athletes get turned off a team due to the way upper management communicates with them, so opening the lines of discussion now and keeping them open will make Rondo feel as if he fully engaged in the process,and that the team wants him to be their point guard of the future.
2. Initiating these talks is a PR move that will cover Ainge’s butt if the Celtics trade Rondo, or let him walk as a free agent
Ah, the cynical side of me comes out! Think about it: if Ainge is in the news, talking about how much the Celtics want Rondo, and how eagerly they have pursued an extension with him, public opinion is going to be on the side of the Boston Celtics should Rondo wind up leaving town, If he gets traded, Ainge can say that, based on their talks, he got the feeling that Rondo wasn’t committed to the Celtics, and forced Ainge’s hand. Meanwhile, if Rondo walks as a free agent, Ainge can once again say that the team did everything in its power to convince him to stay. Either way, if Rondo winds up playing for a different team within the next 1-2 seasons, Ainge has given himself an out. Shrewd move, if you ask me.
Of course, these are just theories. I could be correct about one, both, or none, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Still, I’ve been following professional sports long enough to know how the business works. I’m fairly optimistic that this is just the Celtics’ way of proving to Rondo that they are committed to rebuilding with him, so until I hear otherwise, I would say this is a good sign for those of us who want to see Rondo involved in bringing the 18th championship banner to the rafters at TD Garden.