By Chris Broussard
NEW YORK -- After the way Rajon Rondo played in last season’s playoffs, you’d think the Boston Celtics would be willing to do whatever it takes to lock up the point guard long-term. Instead, the two sides are haggling over a contract extension. They have until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement or Rondo will become a restricted free agent next summer.
This type of situation -- and the tension that accompanies it -- has hindered many a player in the past. But Rondo says he’s completely at ease with the situation. After notching 20 points and 7 assists in Tuesday’s 108-103 exhibition loss to the New York Knicks, he said his contract status won’t be a factor in his play this season.
“I have no idea whether we’ll get something done [by the deadline],” Rondo said from the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden. “It’s not something I’m worried about. It’s just not a big deal right now. Of course, I’d like to get it done, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.’’
It might actually be in Rondo’s best interest to wait until the season ends to negotiate a new deal. During last season’s playoff series with Chicago and Orlando, he nearly averaged a triple-double, notching 16.9 points, 9.8 assists and 9.7 rebounds a game. If he plays as well this season and helps the Celtics win their second ring in three years, he could command huge money on the free agent market, especially with so many teams clearing cap space for next summer’s free agent bonanza. If some of the would-be big spenders don’t land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, they could be willing to give their money to Rondo.
Rondo understands that, which is one reason he won’t be bent out of shape if no deal is struck this month. It is not known how much Rondo is asking for, but a source said it's not the maximum.
“My agent’s got a certain number in mind and if they don’t reach that, we’ll just wait,’’ he said. “I feel like if we win another title, obviously that helps my chances [of getting more money].’’
Despite Rondo’s tremendous playoff performance, the Celtics actually considered trading him in the offseason. There was talk that he and coach Doc Rivers, a former point guard in the league, did not get along.
Rondo said Tuesday that he never confronted the Celtics on the trade talk and added that his relationship with Rivers is fine.
“If you ask Doc, I don’t think he had a problem with me,’’ Rondo said. “With him being a former point guard and me being a point guard, of course, we’re not going to see eye to eye all the time. But I think people blew that situation up. It’s just like at [the University of ] Kentucky, when people said I had a problem with [coach] Tubby Smith -- but I never did.’’
With the Celtics’ “Big Three,’’ plus key newcomer Rasheed Wallace, all being in their 30s, Rondo could become one of the team’s biggest stars this season, giving the club a “Big Four’’ or “Five.’’ He said the old “Big Three’’ formula that led the Celtics to a ring in 2008 is just fine.
“I’ve got three, maybe four, Hall of Famers playing with me, so I just stay humble,’’ Rondo said. “Hopefully, some of that will rub off on me.’’
He hopes their contracts rub off on him as well.