“We finished the season with 10 guys,” Rondo cracked. “So hopefully we can get, like, five more guys, a strong group of 15.”
Technically, the Celtics finished the season with eight guys, as the undrafted trio of Joel Anthony, Chris Babb and Chris Johnson comprised the entire bench for the season finale against the Washington Wizards. Rondo knew what the questioner meant, of course, but the point guard always has preferred to play coy whenever possible.
Big changes could be ahead for the Celtics this summer. Some of those changes could even include Rondo himself. The eight-year veteran never has been far from trade rumors, and he doesn’t expect any of that to change as he enters his last offseason under contract with the Celtics.
If Rondo isn’t moved, however, he’d prefer some input on the additions that team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge does make. As Rondo enters the prime of his career, he says he’s entitled to it.
“I think it’s deserved,” Rondo said. “Everybody’s different. Every team is different. I wouldn’t mind being that guy. I’ve been that guy the last couple of years. When we needed a guy to recruit or call guys up on the phone, I always did that, so this isn’t new.”
“Danny has always had great communication with me,” Rondo added. “He’s told me what he has in his plans, what he has in store for this team.”
While this is crucial offseason for the Celtics as a whole, it’s also a crucial offseason for Rondo in particular. A four-time All-Star and two-time league leader in assists, Rondo turned 28 in February and is eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season. He has spent his entire NBA career in Boston and shook off a question about if he wanted to stay with a curt, “I’ve already answered that question before.”
Yet as loyal as Rondo is — his sneakers honoring Boston Marathon bombing victims demonstrated he has an emotional attachment to the city — his competitive nature might make it hard for him to re-sign with the Celtics if he doesn’t see progress made. Still, Ainge said the prospect of losing Rondo didn’t add any pressure for the organization to accelerate the rebuilding process.
“Listen, there’s no one person that’s more important than the whole organization,” Ainge said. “We need to be good because we all want to be good. I want my coaches to stay. I want Jeff Green to want to be here. I want free agents that are looking at us play to want to be here. I want fans to want to come to the games. Everybody wants to win, but not just for one player and not just for one person. We all want to win, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Ainge also added, in a not-so-subtle nod to potential trading partners: “I think Rajon will have the best year of his career next year, that’s what I think.”
Rondo and Ainge have been through one rebuild before. They’ve also been through the dismantling of a onetime championship squad, when Ainge threw out any semblance of sympathy and dealt Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets last summer.
Rondo knows very little is sacred in the business of professional sports. As long as he’s in a position to wield some influence, he’ll exercise it. He wants a voice in Boston, however long he stays here.