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NBA PM: Celtics Thinking Big This Summer

The Boston Celtics are hoping for fireworks this summer. Could those include trading Rajon Rondo? It may depend on his approach to signing an extension… Jarnell Stokes and Alex Kirk declare.

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Celtics Thinking Big This Summer

Last summer, the Boston Celtics made a series of moves that they knew would set them back in the short-term. At the time, it seemed like a necessary sacrifice. After all, sometimes you do have to take a few steps back to take several forward. However, this is a proud franchise that is accustomed to being a contender, and this season has been pretty grueling to endure. At 23-55 everyone, from the ownership to fan base, is eager for the offseason to arrive in hopes of making vast improvements.

“I’m going to try to blow off some fireworks, but I have to be patient as well and we have to make sure that we don’t do deals just to do deals,” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub. “We have to do the right deals. Those are a lot harder than most people think or believe or understand. I’m not making any promises. We have a busy summer ahead of us and there’s a lot of different directions we could go.”

The first opportunity the Celtics will have to make some noise will be in June’s draft, where they will have a high lottery pick along with the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade from this past summer.

Going into free agency, the Celtics are going to have $44 million in guaranteed contracts on their books with Kris Humphries, Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley all hitting the open market, although the Celtics can make Bradley restricted. Joel Anthony could become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $3.8 million option for next year, but that’s considered unlikely.

The salary cap is expected to increase slightly from its current $58.6 million threshold, so the Celtics are going to have some money to spend in free agency and make some moves. It’s fairly typical for franchises to keep their star players up to date with what they are trying to do, especially in a summer like the upcoming one for the Celtics where there is so much potential for change. Rajon Rondo, the Celtics’ top player, hopes for that same courtesy.

“I want to be aware of what’s going on, especially if I’m part of the future here,” Rondo said to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “And being the point guard, I would like to know what the team has in store or wants to do or the moves they want to make. I think I’ll be around in Boston this summer and I’ll look forward to what’s going to happen. I’m very excited.

“Next year will be fun, it will be a fresh start. I’ll be able to go through training camp and my conditioning will be better than ever and I’ll have a full summer to train at full speed, at full strength. Last summer I wasn’t able to train. This summer will be a fun summer, probably the best summer of my career. I’m looking forward to it, something to take out of it. Not making the playoffs, I’ll have a lot more time to train and get better.”

If Rondo truly has hopes of being kept up to date with the Celtics’ plans this summer, he may have to be willing to sign an extension. Otherwise, they may not be able to brief him on what they’re doing because it could involve trading him. The Celtics opened up an extension dialogue with Rondo late last year, but with the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured it didn’t make financial sense for Rondo to seriously consider the offer because all he could get was an additional two years added onto his current deal. The Celtics acknowledged from the beginning that their chances of getting a deal done were small, but wanted to at least try in a sign of good faith toward Rondo.

After the moratorium period ends in July, Rondo will be eligible to receive a three-year extension, which warrants a little bit more consideration. It’s undeniable that it is in his best interest to wait until he becomes an unrestricted free agent, though. At that point he’ll be eligible to receive a four-year contract from any team with cap space and a five-year contract from the Celtics. At 28 years of age and coming off of the most serious injury of his career (a torn ACL that kept him out for just over a year), Rondo could justify both signing an extension this summer or exploring free agency. The latter could force the Celtics’ hand.

There were numerous reports prior to this year’s trade deadline that they were exploring his value around the league. While they lose some leverage due to his pending free agency, it’s hard to pass on getting at least something in return rather than taking the chance of losing him in free agency for nothing. And, most teams look at a player being unwilling to sign an extension as an indication that they’re not going to be able to keep him anyway. As Ainge said, there’s a lot of different directions that they can go in this summer and until Rondo is under contract beyond next season he could be left in the dark in regards to their future plans.

Two Big men Declare for Draft

Today, news came across that two underclassmen, New Mexico’s Alex Kirk and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes have declared for the 2014 NBA Draft.

They are both expected to hire agents, which would make them ineligible for their senior year even if they withdrew prior to the NCAA’s deadline (April 16), or the NBA’s deadline (April 27).

For analysis on their decisions, projections where they could be drafted and a complete list of all of the underclassmen to declare so far make sure to check out our who’s in and who’s out article on the NBA Draft, which will be continuously updated until the draft class is made official on June 16.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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