WALTHAM, Mass. — A reporter asked Rajon Rondo on Monday if he wanted to remain with the Boston Celtics beyond this season.
The reporter could barely finish his question before the point guard gave his answer.
“Yes,” Rondo told the throng at Celtics media day.
The Celtics are not expected to contend for a championship this season — Rondo said as much himself Monday — and Rondo’s forthcoming six-to-10-week absence because of a broken hand will further hamper their chances of returning to respectability.
Several Celtics newcomers spoke Monday about the franchise’s history giving Boston an allure despite the team’s current struggles. But Rondo, who has spent his entire career with the Celtics, gave a slightly different reason for wanting to stick around.
“The fans — the people here — make me want to stay,” the point guard said. “The organization has been great; I can’t say enough about (Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge) and (owner Wyc Grousbeck), but when I walk down the street, the fans are embracing.
“From Day 1, they’ve been working on a championship. People don’t just appreciate us winning, it’s more of a thank you. It’s a love for the game. These people here know the game; you can’t fool them. They know when you BS them around and you’re not playing as hard as you can. The love I get is kind of overwhelming in Boston. Why wouldn’t I want to stay?”
Rondo also spoke highly of his relationship with Brad Stevens, saying he is “free” to do “whatever (he) want(s) to do” in the second-year head coach’s system.
“He’s the most positive coach I’ve ever played for,” Rondo said. “When you’re playing for a guy who’s always smiling, always positive, you can do nothing but be happy. We talk a lot. He’s actually the guy I call to work out with. It’s kind of unusual for a head coach to be the guy that you work out with. I guess he’s trying to test to see what shape I’m in, but he has some pretty good workouts.”
Rondo’s final decision, however, likely will come down to money. He’s set to hit free agency after this season and said Monday, after a brief pause, that he believes he deserves a max contract. Ainge, who admitted it “makes no financial sense” for Rondo to re-sign before testing the market, couldn’t help but agree.
“I think that a four-time All-Star by the time he’s 27 years old would qualify for max based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace,” Ainge said. “If I was Rajon and I was Rajon’s agent, I would definitely say that.
“But since I’m negotiating against him, I’ll withhold,” Ainge added with a smile.
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