There's been wild speculation and rumor mongering since Rajon Rondo returned last week, but Ken Berger of CBS Sports sheds some light on the point guard's future with the franchise:
"I don't put too much on the future," Rondo said, even though he knows that everything is riding on it.
League sources say Ainge is not actively shopping Rondo, but like any good GM, he isn't ignoring the phone calls, either. He's only come close to trading Rondo once before, in a deal that would've landed him Chris Paul. To all other inquiries about his prized point guard, Ainge keeps saying the same thing: "No."
An extension? Not now. After the NBA system was rigged for years to keep stars from leaving their teams, the rules now make it virtually impossible for a player in Rondo's situation to sign an extension. This summer, with one year left on his deal, Rondo would be eligible for at most a two-year extension. Like Paul when he was traded to the Clippers in 2011, Rondo stands to get the longest, most lucrative deal by becoming a free agent in 2015 and re-signing with Boston.
So, that's the reality. Not counting a possible playoff appearance or games he might take off while he recovers from knee surgery, there are 121 games separating Rondo from his impending free agency in the summer of 2015. That's 348,480 seconds of basketball for Danny Ainge to determine whether or not his prized point guard is the face of the franchise beyond this contract.
With draft picks galore over the next five years, Ainge could easily trade Rondo for even more assets and try and strike gold again with a rookie. It would make sense to find a younger player from the college ranks to spearhead the rebuild, but here's a word of caution: if Danny intends to build part of the roster via trade, he might need Rondo as a piece to attract free agents to Boston. Kevin Garnett doesn't become a Celtic (and sign an extension) without Paul Pierce and Ray Allen already in green.
For as bad a rap that Rondo gets, I get the sense that if he does re-sign in Boston, he won't demand the max. He seems committed to building a winner here and knows that taking a bulk of the cap away from Ainge could cripple that cause. Much of it will depend on how quickly guys like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk develop, whether or not Danny brings back his back court mate Avery Bradley, and who they draft over the next two summers, but Rondo's the captain now and I'm sure he takes that to heart. He's developed a very good working relationship with Brad Stevens, to the point where he acts equally as assistant coach and starting point guard. Maybe it's wishful thinking that he'll give the team a big hometown discount a year a half from now, but I don't put it past him.