BOSTON — While his team continues to build for the future, Rajon Rondo said Friday he hasn’t thought much about the prospect of free agency after his contract expires with the Boston Celtics at the end of the 2014-15 season. The longest tenured member of the Celtics is currently in the fourth year of a five-year $55 million dollar contract. The point guard did admit that he was intrigued by the possibility of entering free agency in a couple years.
“It’s kind of like, I would say, maybe college recruiting,” Rondo told a group of reporters. “I’m pretty sure a lot more goes into it in the NBA. A lot more money is spent. I’ve heard stories, guys getting called right at midnight. It’s something that I haven’t experienced. I may want to go through it. I haven’t thought about it at all.”
While it will remain unclear for the next several months whether Rondo will in fact test the open market, there are several compelling reasons why it makes sense for Boston’s top star to potentially explore free agency.
The first reason for Rondo to wait it out for free agency is strictly from a financial standpoint. Danny Ainge has broached Rondo about signing him to a long-term extension with the Celtics right now, but the veteran guard would be costing himself millions of dollars by signing that deal.
That’s because, due to CBA rules, the most Boston can offer Rondo right now is two more years on top of his current deal. Extensions for veterans are limited for four seasons, including the years currently on the player’s contract. Rondo already has two years remaining on his deal, so Boston can only tack on two more, not as enticing as a four or five-year deal Rondo could land in the summer of 2015 as a free agent.
Additionally, the Celtics can only offer raises of 7.5 percent each year to Rondo’s current salary in any extension. Boston has the point guard under contract at a relative bargain next season for $12.9 million dollars, which means the starting salary for a Rondo extension could only be roughly $13.9 million dollars.
That’s good money for any NBA player, but it’s still far short of what Rondo would command on the open market. By signing an extension with the Celtics before the end of next season, Rondo could cost himself up to four million dollars annually on his next contract (if he were to sign a max deal). No matter how much Rondo enjoys Boston, it’s too big of a financial sacrifice for an elite player to make in their prime.
Beyond dollars and cents, it still makes sense for Rondo to wait it out for free agency from an on-the-court standpoint as well.
The Celtics are in the midst of a rebuilding project under new head coach Brad Stevens. While it is certain Boston’s roster will look far different next season, it’s unclear just how much progress Ainge will make in retooling this team towards being a championship contender once again.
Seeing that Rondo will be playing the prime years of his career with whatever team he signs with next, it makes sense not to commit to a cloudy future in Boston prematurely. Rondo likely wants to find out whether young prospects like Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk continue to develop into a supporting cast that can be counted on.
If they don’t pan out, the Celtics’ captain may be best served taking his talents elsewhere, especially if Boston is unable to land a top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft.
In the meantime, Rondo remains committed to his team and health, knowing he has to come back strong from his ACL tear in order to maximize his next contract.
“I haven’t thought about [free agency]. I’ve just thought about getting my leg as strong as possible, continue to shake off the rust this year and come back even better next,” Rondo said.
The four-time All-Star has never had the chance to explore free agency in his NBA career. As the months count down to the end of Rondo’s current contract, don’t be surprised if you see Boston’s prized point guard keep his options open before possibly testing the waters of the open market in 2015.