Well they don’t like his contract demands first of all. Rondo’s not the kind of guy who’s going to take a hometown discount to stay in Boston. He’s going to sign with whoever offers him the most dollars at the end of his contract, whenever it’s up. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to go out there and try to get the most money.
Did anyone really expect Rondo to take a hometown discount? We all know that if Rondo demands anything close to the max after next season, the Celtics will have to decide whether he’s worth that amount (between $14-$18 million per season on an escalating scale) or a lesser amount (how’s $10 million sound?). In their public statements, the Celtics may be indicating they believe Rondo has not earned anything like max status. Consider Doc Rivers this month in the Eagle Tribune (based in North Andover, Mass.):
“Rondo still has a lot of growth ahead of him. As great as his numbers were, as great as he played at times, guys still fell off him to double team. Guys don’t fall off an All-Star to help with someone else. He has to make them pay for that by hitting his shot. Rondo has a chance to be a great player.
“But you have to do it every day in the playoffs. The first five games of the Chicago series Rondo played at an All-Star level. But the rest of the playoffs you could make the case that he really struggled. He had good rebounding numbers. He also had some good assist numbers at times. But at the point guard level you have to be able to score and get your assists. When teams play the Boston Celtics the one guy they are going to help off of is Rondo.”
That is some pretty frank talk, don’t you think? (And he’s right about Rondo’s playoff numbers dropping off after the first five games of the Chicago series, as Roy Hobbs at CB detailed earlier this week).
Now throw in Wyc Grousbeck’s declaration that the C’s could be in a position to sign a max player after next season. As Brian Robb here and Jeff Clark at CelticsBlog have pointed out, that’s only possible if a) the Celtics don’t resign Rondo before next season ends; and b) Paul Pierce declines his $21.5 million player option and re-signs for less–a LOT less. Even if PIerce accepts only about $15 million, the C’s would still be on the hook for about $38 million total between only KG, Perk and Pierce. If the salary cap hovers around $55 million, they’d be right at the edge of where it would be possible to do a max deal. And that’s assuming, again, that the team doesn’t extend Rondo before the end of next season.
Given all this, perhaps it’s not completely off-the-wall to think the Celtics would consider trading Rondo for a high draft pick plus a cheap player that would come off the books after 2010–the exact sort of deal Chad Ford reports the Kings may have offered the Celtics for Rondo last week.
The other option, of course, is to let it ride this season, see how Rondo develops and decide about everything else later. I still think this is the most likely option. I remain skeptical that the C’s are willing to make huge roster changes for 2009-10 when the two untradeable members of their core (KG and Pierce) have so few realistic chances left at a title. If they deal Rondo, who’s playing the point next season?