It was purely a formality, but the Celtics officially exercised Rajon Rondo's fourth-year option for 2009-10 today. He'll make 2.09 million. He'll be eligible for restricted free agency the summer of 2010 but hopes to sign a long-term deal next summer. While announcing the deal, Danny Ainge offered all the requisite superlatives:
"He's made great progress," said Ainge. "He's a strong point guard on a championship team. He's come a long way. He has sort of a love for the game of basketball."
Ainge's comments border on boilerplate (he's a championship point guard! he sort of loves the game!) but he did strike a chord with his first compliment: Rondo has made great progress. A year ago, I was chiding him for his poor shooting (in all fairness, he lost a shooting contest to an eighth-grader) and calling him the weakest link in Boston' lineup.
Since then, the guy established himself as one of the most important cogs in Boston's lineup, arguably the third-most important starter behind Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. (Yes, Ray Allen, it's true.) His trademark defense set the tone for the rest of the team, which ultimately finished the season ranked first in opponent field-goal percentage by a wide margin. Hell, the guy's name has become a verb!
And his shooting? Well, his mechanics are still ugly, but he improved his shooting percentage from .418 as a rookie to .492 last year. Who needs a jumper when you have a devestating first step? Plain and simple, the guy gets things done, and considering he's still just 22 years old, there's no reason to think he can't continue to develop into one of the elite point guards of his generation. Sorry for doubting you, Rondo. I was wrong before, but I'm now a believer.