Rondo appreciates Wyc's words

BOSTON -- After the trade deadline passed in late February, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo admitted that the rumors he swirled in bothered him this season.

But even before he could collect himself from the trade whispers, Rondo found himself under siege for his decision to skip a trip to Sacramento and celebrate his birthday in Los Angeles while knowing he was not scheduled to play on the second night of a back-to-back.

As all the noise finally died down recently, Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, one of Rondo's most staunch supporters, came out to publicly champion Rondo as the current and future leader of this franchise.

Rondo admitted after Friday's loss to the Phoenix Suns that the support resonated with him.

"It means a lot, especially coming from the head guy," said Rondo. "With all the rumors swirling, the criticism that I was having throughout the past couple weeks, he stuck his neck out. He didn't have to say anything, but he did. I've talked to Wyc since then. Everything is what it's supposed to be."

Earlier this week, Grousbeck raved about Rondo while reflecting on the 2013-14 season in an interview with the Boston Globe.

"[Rondo is] loved right here, from my seat on the court," said Grousbeck. "I love the guy. I love his championship ring when he was the young kid. I love his growth. It reminds me of Paul Pierce. Growing from the moments in his younger days and making progress toward being an all-time Celtic and a leader. I am always hopeful that a guy like that is going to stay around."

Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season. While he's said he sees the potential for a long-term future in Boston, he's also expressed a desire to test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2015.

The Celtics have a difficult choice to make. If Rondo does not desire to explore an extension this offseason -- and the prospects of a bigger deal and a potential no-trade clause will entice him to wait -- then Boston brass must decide whether they want to risk losing Rondo without compensation if they can't lock him up down the road.

Owning Rondo's rights, Boston can still offer him the most money when he reaches unrestricted free agency and, even if he desired to move on, would have the sign-and-trade route to bring back compensation.

Rondo was asked if he feels more secure about his future in Boston after reading what Grousbeck said.

"I mean, we had a dinner at the beginning of the year and Wyc expressed how he felt about me," said Rondo. "I don't think he's a liar. I know he's not a liar. He didn't have to tell me anything. Him and I, we spoke, and what he said recently hasn't changed."

For now, both sides seem to be content to let Rondo work his way back from a nearly yearlong absence due to ACL surgery and cross those bridges as they come.

Rondo, named captain of this year's squad upon his mid-January return, has shown glimpses of his old self in recent weeks. But he endured one of his poorer outings on Friday. He finished with eight points on 4-of-15 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. The Celtics shot a mere 30.9 percent overall (29-of-94), including just 14.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc. Rondo finished minus-18 in plus/minus over 34:23 in an 87-80 loss to the Suns.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was about as disappointed after the game as we've seen him, expressing dismay at Boston's lack of late-game poise, which allowed the Suns to score the game's final seven points in the final minute.

"We just didn't do a good job executing the plays down the stretch," said Rondo.

As frustrating as nights like this have been during a rebuilding season, the Celtics envision a brighter future. Grousbeck noted in that same interview that he sees potential for "fireworks" this offseason.

The ability for Boston to light those fuses could be important in keeping win-craving Rondo around.

The Celtics have plenty of assets, headlined by two first-round picks in June's draft (part of a surplus of as many as 10 first-round picks over the next five years). The team also has Keith Bogans' nonguaranteed contract, a couple of trade exceptions (including one worth $10.3 million from the Nets trade) and money coming off the books (only six players have guaranteed salaries next season).

With the right moves -- and maybe a touch of lottery luck -- Boston could be back in the mix next year, particularly in the dilapidated East. It seems if Grousbeck has his way, Rondo will be a key part of Boston's next championship-contending squad.