Rewind about 12 months, and the biggest question on every Celtics fan's mind late last summer was what the C's planned to do with Rajon Rondo.
Rondo was going into his fourth season in a Celtics uniform and was prepared to play out the final year of his rookie-scale contract. The Celtics were up against the deadline to extend their young point guard, and they waited until the eleventh hour to get it done.
On the night of Nov. 2, Danny Ainge sat down with Rondo and agent Bill Duffy, finally ironing out the details of a five-year, $55 million deal to keep Rondo in Celtic green until the summer of 2015.
A year later, we wonder — will the C's be willing to do the same with Kendrick Perkins?
Perkins, who turns 26 early this season, has been a Celtic for seven years now, and the starting center for most of five. He's been an unsung hero in Boston throughout his time here, slaving away as a post defender, rebounder and "enforcer," to borrow a hockey term frequently used to describe the Celtics' 280-pound beast. He does all the little things right and rarely gets any of the fanfare.
He's also the only current Celtic whose contract status hasn't changed one bit since the C's realigning summer of 2007. Kevin Garnett worked out an extension immediately upon being traded here from Minnesota, Rondo got his extension in November, and both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen worked out new deals earlier this summer. The bench has been through countless revisions over the past three years. Only Perk has stood pat.
Like Rondo, Perk coasted through his first three seasons in a Celtics uniform on a rookie-scale deal, and like Rondo, he came to terms with the Celtics on an extension in the fall before his fourth season. Perk signed a four-year extension in September 2006 worth around $16.7 million.
He's now heading into the final year of that extension, and the Celtics have to make a decision about his future. How committed are they to making Perk a part of their plans for the next decade.
At the moment, the C's are at a crossroads. Rondo and Pierce are the only two players guaranteed to be under contract after 2012, and Ainge has to consider how comfortable he is in that position. Does he like the flexibility of leaving cap space open for that summer, when he may get the chance to pursue Gerald Wallace, O.J. Mayo or Brook Lopez, among other potential free agents? Or does he have enough faith in Perk now to make the big fella a part of his nucleus for the future?
It seems like a risky move to re-sign Perk now, especially given his current health status. With the torn ACL he suffered in Game 6 of the Finals back in June, he's on the shelf for half of next season, and it's hard to know whether his career will ever be the same.
But that's a risk that Ainge has to take.
The Celtics' focus right now is winning championships — not just this coming season, but in 2012 as well. They've got the band back together, but it's not time for a farewell tour just yet.
KG has two years left. Ray has re-signed for two. Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and Nate Robinson all have brand new two-year deals.
The Celtics are well stocked for the upcoming season, but they also need to keep their nucleus intact for the year after that. Perk's as big a part of that as anyone.
Knee injury notwithstanding, the Celtics have work to do. They've got to keep their big man around as long as possible.