For all his quirks and occasional surliness, Rajon Rondo has never lacked for perceptiveness—be it on the court or in front of the camera.
Rondo knows his Boston Celtics are in a bad way and that—as with any team entering a full-on rebuild—certain players might have their own fates and futures in mind.
From the Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes:
Rondo to Globe: “For the most part guys are playing for contracts. It’s not a matter of being here. It’s a matter of staying in the league.”— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 18, 2014
Considering a good portion of Boston’s roster might not even be around by the time next season rolls around, it’s not like Rondo’s in danger of burning any real bridges by saying this.
At the same time, it should be noted that Rondo wasn't wielding this as a kind of passive-aggressive barb. Rather, he was merely acknowledging how a given player's financial situation might impact how they play. From Holmes' story:
If a guy is not under contract, obviously he wants to play well every game. He wants to make all his shots, do all the intangibles. I’m not necessarily saying that a guy under contract won’t do all those things, but obviously it’s amplified when you’re playing for your life or you’re playing for your career.
It’s worth nothing that Rondo has intimated on more than one occasion that he’d entertain finishing out his career in Boston, as he told the Globe’s Gary Washburn back in January.
More Rondo: "I wouldn't mind staying here the rest of my career. I wouldn't mind extending another 10 years." #celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) January 24, 2014
More Rondo: "(The offer was) star money? That's from Danny (Ainge)? I'm making star money now." #celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) January 25, 2014
We can interpret Rondo’s outward financial flexibility in one of two ways: The first is that he’s content with the money he’s making and would be happy to take a paycut if it meant expediting Boston’s rebuilding efforts.
Or, he’ll merely wait until next summer, survey the scene and—if the landscape warrants as much—join a contender at a steep discount.
As Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster teased out last month, the Celtics themselves are likely torn between whether to see Rondo as a cornerstone of the future, or a way to accelerate the rebuilding process.
Whereas [Danny] Ainge may view Rondo as his next Paul Pierce, the player who sticks through the bad times until there are enough assets to acquire other stars, other teams that already have star point guards (which are a lot of them) or need their point guards to be good outside shooters likely wouldn't touch Rondo for two unprotected picks.
Either way, it sounds like not even Rondo is sure how his roster is going to look next year. We know there will be a lot of rookies and second-year guys, but the guys "playing for contracts"—that's a bit more uncertain.
This is all purely speculative, of course. For all we know, this is Rondo's clever way of getting back at guys who beat him in Connect Four.