A league source said the Celtics plan to hold talks with Rondo before the start of training camp later this month. Rondo has one year and an option remaining on his contract.
There isn’t a more pressing basketball issue facing the team than how much money Rajon Rondo is worth. We’ve already discussed that after a few promising fits and starts, Rondo’s jump shot—the biggest weakness in his game—took a step back last season. That alone should dismiss any talk that Rondo is a max-level player at this point.
Jeff Clark at CB reminds us that Cedric Maxwell once reported Rondo would accept a five-year, $50 million deal. My gut says that I’d sign that deal right now. Look at the list of player salaries from DraftExpress, and you’ll see that most of the players making around $10 million/year are, like Rondo, second (or even third) option-types who nonetheless are very productive. Some of the names: David West, Luol Deng, Memo Okur, Gerald Wallace, Andrew Bogut, Cory Maggette, Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith, Manu Ginobili. (Some of the funnier names: Eddy Curry, Bobby Simmons, Larry Hughes. Ha!)
That feels about right for Rondo. None of those guys are superstars or first options, and almost all of them have some significant weakness in their games. But they are very, very valuable players who each bring something unique and desirable, whether it be shot-blocking (Okafor), the ability to get to the foul line (Maggette) or superfantastic clutchness and Argentine sex appeal (Manu).
Then again, all of these deals were signed when the economy was booming and NBA teams had healther, if not outstanding, bottom lines. Instead of negotiating now, should the Celtics wait until the end of next year and play hardball, hoping none of the teams under the cap throws Rondo a huge offer? That can be a dangerous game, because it can spur ill will between the player and the team and result in Rondo signing a one-year deal (for at least the $3.1 million qualifying offer) and becoming an unrestricted free agent the next season—and, perhaps, a pissed off free agent at that.
Then again, salary is a real concern for the Celtics, as you all know. The C’s will be paying about $50 million to Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Perk, ‘Sheed and Big Baby alone for 2010-11, meaning they’ll blow right past the salary cap (and likely the luxury tax) if they extend both Rondo and Ray Allen at something resembling fair market value. And they’d still have to fill out the rest of the roster. The books become much cleaner in 2011-2012, but that’s assuming Pierce and Ray Allen are both gone by then, and that’s a questionable assumption.
In any case, after Rondo’s tumultuous off-season, it might be best to get some friendly talks going. That’s where we have to rely on the C’s executive team, and, I have to say, it feels good as a fan knowing your team’s executives know what the hell they are doing.