If anyone has been wondering what the Celtics are going to look like a few years down the line, you got your first indication today. Rajon Rondo has been signed to a contract extension that will keep him in Boston for years to come, and with that, the first brick has been laid to the future foundation of the Celtics organization.
In spite of what the rumor mill had been swirling around throughout the summer, Danny Ainge and the Celtics' ownership stepped up and made it clear that they don't want to see Rondo in any other jersey (well, maybe a bunch of All-Star jerseys) but theirs. Now, after an 11th hour agreement at the contract-extension deadline, Rondo will be sporting green and white into the next decade.
"Wyc [Grousbeck], Danny [Ainge] and Doc [Rivers] all have the confidence in me," Rondo said today, fresh off signing the most expensive paperwork of his life. "You know, that says a lot. They want me here, obviously for a long time, (and) I'm excited to be here, too."
The fourth-year guard is currently in the final season of his rookie contract with the Celtics. The NBA's deadline for extending eligible rookie contracts was originally set for 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 31. If that deadline had been enforced, Rondo may have wound up playing out his contract and heading into restricted free agency this summer. Instead, a stroke of luck fell on both parties.
Halloween just so happened to fall on a Saturday this year, and really, who wants to spend their sugar-filled weekend at the negotiating table? The league seemed to think the answer to that question was "nobody," so they granted an extension of the deadline to the next business day (today) to complete negotiations. (Hint: Ainge and Rondo's camp were most likely talking all weekend long. Let's not kid ourselves.)
That extra time wasn't wasted, and here we are today with Rondo plugged in as the official cornerstone of the Celtics' future. And boy, does that future look bright.
The performance Rondo put on during last season's playoffs is as memorable as any other story that broke in the spring, and that includes the eventual champions. When people talk about the 2009 postseason, they talk about Rondo's near-triple-double averages through two seven-game series. The numbers don't lie: 16.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 9.8 APG. They're utterly ridiculous, and they're the numbers that bounced him into 'budding star' status.
He burst onto the NBA radar with that playoff run but has continued playing at that high level for the Celtics this season. He currently ranks first in the league in assists (47) and steals (10) and is second in assist-to-turnover ratio. He's directing this star-studded Celtics roster with brilliance at both ends of the floor, helping them to a perfect 4-0 start this season.
Although he's shown flashes of his dominance in the past and is playing great basketball in the present, Doc Rivers is just as excited about what Rondo will provide in the future.
"He's  years old. He hasn't reached his prime," Rivers said. "He's not even scratched that. He's going to keep improving his shot; he's going to keep improving his court awareness. He's just going to keep getting better and better."
Scary. If Rondo continues to develop at the rate he has in just three-plus seasons, he may be unstoppable by the time this new contract runs out.
But that's all in the future. Just as he must have had an "I'm glad that's finally over" moment when he was drafted into the NBA three years ago, Rondo likely had that feeling again today. Now there's no more contract talk. There's no more wondering. It's simply time to play basketball and worry about the present.
And if you haven't checked the standings, the present is just as bright as the future for Rondo and his teammates. He's surrounded by three future Hall of Famers, an absurd amount of depth and a collective hunger to bring home a second championship in three years.
With that in mind and the pending contract sitting on the table last night, Rivers spoke to Rondo twice to remind him of what the real goal is.
"He's earned what he has, but this can't be [the] defining moment of his career," Rivers told Rondo. "Winning has to be your defining moment."
Rivers may have pulled Rondo aside to reiterate that thought, but it wasn't necessary. Throughout the entire contract ordeal, his mind never wandered. He already knows what's going to define his and his teammates' legacies.
"Nothing changes," Rondo said, with his contract now in the rear view mirror. "Still got one goal in mind. It's great to have security and all, but we are still focused on winning a championship."
Well said, Rajon. Cheers to the future.