Is it possible that this is only Rajon Rondo's seventh season in the NBA?
His career has seen enough peaks and valleys for the lengthiest of NBA runs. He has a title ring, and a shaky reputation. He's been named to four All-Star teams and four All-Defensive teams, but supposedly can't shoot and is an overrated defender.
His team wouldn't have reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals without him a year ago, but they are 13-4 since his torn ACL sidelined him a month ago.
Nothing will ever be easy or make total sense with the Celtics point guard. Because of all that, a simple, yet increasingly difficult question is raised.
What does the future hold for Rajon Rondo?
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge made perhaps the second-greatest move of his tenure when he locked down his burgeoning young point guard in the fall of 2009. He inked Rondo to a five-year, $55 million rookie-scale extension. Considering Rondo's strong play, particularly in the postseason, that is a bargain
That deal has Rondo wrapped up in a contract with the Celtics through the 2014-15 season, or two more after this current season. Obviously it is impossible to tell where he will be at that point, especially given the variety of healing times and successes we are currently witnessing with recent sufferers of ACL injuries.
The Celtics obviously hope he is ready to go by the start of next season, which would be right around the eight-month mark of his recovery. However, at what level will he return?
Ricky Rubio is taking a while to get his sea legs back, and Derrick Rose is refusing to play until he can so so at a truly high level. If it takes half a season for Rondo to be at full strength, that contract shrinks and shrinks.
Soon, Boston will have decisions to make concerning Rondo. Not that they are strangers to those decisions, since Ainge has gone through them seemingly every season. He holds easily the most value of any Celtic asset in terms of bringing back a slate of rebuilding pieces. However, Rondo has become ingrained as a part of the Boston Celtics culture over the past few years.
There are a few items that concern you about Rondo's long-term future in Boston. Firstly, the point guard position just doesn't seem as valuable this year.
It has long been easy to classify Rondo as a part of a group of three or four point guards who were head and shoulders above the rest. However, as the position has gotten younger, there are more guys who can come close to matching his production.
The number of good to great point guards in the NBA now numbers in the 20s. While there may still be no one who can do the things Rondo does, you can bet there are 10 who come close and five more entering the league in the next five years.
Guys like Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Damian Lillard, even Ty Lawson and Mike Conley are all younger than Rondo and very talented. It is a hard thing to imagine, but the point guard position is becoming more and more expendable.
Depending on how you looked at Rondo in 2007-08, the Celtics are the only team in the past five seasons to win the NBA title with an elite point guard in his prime.
However, Rondo wasn't really elite at that point, so you'd just have Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs winning two of the last eight. It is a dangerous trend for the position. If your best player is a point guard, it may not be as helpful as you'd think.
Another concern is his post-extension contract. This summer will tell us a lot about how teams are going to pay fringe-max level guys. If Josh Smith gets a max deal after averaging just 17 points per game, but filling up the stat sheet elsewhere, then we'll be able to better evaluate Rondo's value.
Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings and even Tyreke Evans more closely resemble Rondo's position. All three could be in line to score big contracts this summer. How big will inform us what Rondo would be worth on the open market.
Right now the Celtics' entire future is so difficult to predict, as they are most likely locked into Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for at least one more year.
After those two move away from the game, the Celtics will be responsible for drafting wisely or dealing for another big-time player. That deal would probably have to include Rondo or Avery Bradley, neither of which they would be thrilled to part with.
It isn’t often that you strike gold with late first-round picks, which Boston has with Rondo (21) and Bradley (19). The Celtics have a great, young backcourt that I'd like to see them build around.
If Ainge can pull off a Rondo-like rookie-scale extension for Bradley, that keeps enough money free to re-sign Rondo and free-agent X (always a huge if in Boston). Is the opportunity to play with that stellar backcourt enough to entice a big-name player to come to the Celtics?
Over the past couple seasons, the Celtics have really come to realize both the pains and the blessings that come with having Rajon Rondo on your team.
In my opinion, they have one of the very few coaches and institutions that can contain a force of his magnitude.
The Celtics are one of the few places Rondo works, and for that reason, he should be a long-term fixture in Boston.