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Ainge, Rondo on same page

Both focused on getting ring

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / September 29, 2009

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WALTHAM - In the middle of all the chaos of media day yesterday, Rajon Rondo bumped into his boss, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. They exchanged a couple laughs and some playful elbows before Rondo went out the back door.

Rondo’s contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ainge has until Oct. 31 to offer him an extension. Trade rumors swirled in the offseason, and at one point Ainge said Rondo needed to “grow up.’’ But yesterday they both seemed like they wanted to move forward, declining to go into much detail about the status of negotiations.

When asked how talks were coming, Rondo said, “Ask my agent.

“I don’t really think about that, I just try to focus on camp,’’ he said. “If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. If not, I’ll play it out. I want to be wherever I’m wanted the next 10 years. If Danny wants me, I’ll be here the next 10 years.’’

Ainge’s comments ran along the same lines.

“Our intention is to have Rondo as our franchise point guard for a decade,’’ he said. “And I think Rondo wants to be here for a long time as well. So these things are just about dollar amounts. But it has no bearing on where we are with him, how we feel about him, or our intentions. It’s just, we may do something in October and we may do something next summer - we’ll have the ability to match. Just play that by ear.’’

Ainge said he met with Rondo and his agent, Bill Duffy, last week and had a “great conversation.’’

Rondo said, “I have sat down with Danny, but we didn’t speak about contract, we talked about expectations for the season. I try to focus on trying to get a ring. Got to get one this year. I don’t think [the contract] will be on my mind; I won’t allow it to affect me when I play. But, of course, everyone wants security and it would be great if I could sign now. But the focus is the ring. I’ll let my agent handle the contract and just play.’’

In his third year in the league, Rondo averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 assists last season. He starred in the playoffs, posting triple-doubles in three games, but he also was fined for showing up late to one game.

“I just think about last year when we didn’t win it, simple as that,’’ Rondo said. “Hopefully I’ll get two or three more contracts before I’m done playing. This may be the biggest one I get, but I don’t think about it like that. The more wins I get the more chances I’ll get to play for a long time. I have an opportunity now to get a couple rings while I’m still young and take advantage of the team we have.’’

Tony Allen slowed
After surgery on his right ankle and leg in June, Tony Allen was expected to recover in time for training camp, but Ainge and coach Doc Rivers said they were unsure how much the oft-injured guard would be able to contribute.

“It’s just not coming along as quickly as we wanted,’’ Ainge said. “So I think we’ll just take it week by week. He probably won’t do much this first week. And then we’ll evaluate it next week.

“He’s doing a lot of things on the court and he’ll do some things in training camp. I think he’ll run through some offense and do a lot of shooting and pay attention to everything we’re doing, but he probably just won’t go live out of the gate.’’

Said Rivers, “His health is an issue right now. We’re not sure how much he’s going to [get] us going into camp. That’s a concern. We’ll wait and see. Over the last couple of weeks he wasn’t able to do a lot, so we’ll see.’’

With the Celtics bringing in lengthy Marquis Daniels, among others, Ainge said of Allen’s injury, “It puts him behind everybody until he can play. He’s got to remember the most important ability is availability. So as long as he’s in street clothes, he doesn’t have a job.

“But we’re confident that Tony’s going to be healthy sometime in the month of October as we start the season, and where his spot is in the rotation will be determined by Tony’s play and Doc.’’

Fill-in players
A blank banner hung conspicuously on the wall next to the 2008 championship banner. Ainge said it was Rivers’s doing. Rivers blamed it on the ghost of Red Auerbach. “It’s [got obvious] meaning,’’ Rivers said. Captain Paul Pierce said, “We’ve got to fill it in.’’ . . . With the NBA prepared to lock out its referees and bring in replacements, “That’s a tough one for us,’’ Rivers said. “Obviously, we want our refs back. I think everyone does. For teams that are all jockeying for playoff position early and there’s a chance that the officials aren’t going to be there, that’s scary. You want them to come back. I know how important they are.’’ . . . Despite Rivers saying he felt like the Lakers were probably the best team in the league even with a healthy Kevin Garnett back with the Celtics, Pierce didn’t back off statements that he felt a healthy Celtics team was the best in the NBA. “When we were healthy last year, we were on a record-breaking pace,’’ Pierce said. “That’s just what I believe. People are going to say what they want to say about my comments, but I have total confidence in my ball club.’’ . . . Kendrick Perkins, who said his shoulder feels fine, dropped 15 pounds in the offseason to get to 270. Garnett said he’s down 5 from his normal weight to 250, and Rondo is up 11 pounds to 186.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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