Appreciate Rondo's contract

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Appreciate Rondo's contract

While tomorrow is the deadline for baseball teams to make a qualifying offer to free agents, last night marked a special deadline of the NBA variety: It was the last chance for teams to reach an extension with members of the 2009 draft class.

Any player left without an extension will become a restricted free agent next year, but that wont be an issue for many of the games young stars. Among those receiving extensions were James Harden, Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan, Steph Curry, Ty Lawson and Jrue Holiday (sadly, Hasheem Thabeet never got the call). But its the last three guys who I want to focus on here.

Curry: Four years44M (11M annually)
Lawson: Four years48M (12M annually)
Holiday: Four years41M (10.5M, annually)

By comparison, Rajon Rondo is now in year three of a five year extension that was originally worth 55M. Hell make 11M this year, 12M next year and 13M in 2014-15.

You know, weve talked a lot over years about the remarkable job Danny Ainge has done in keeping the Celtics competitive. Originally, we all figured that Boston had a three-year window, and then it was back to the drawing board. Were now in year six, and theres no reason to think it will end here. But even with all the credit weve given Ainge, we probably dont give him enough for locking Rondo up for as many years and for as relatively cheap as he did. In fact, Rondos deal is probably the single biggest factor in the Celtics prolonged success. I mean, look around at the other top point guards in the league. Chris Paul is making nearly 18M this year, and will get the max after this season. Deron Williams got the max this summer, and will make 55.3M over the next three years compared to Rondos 35M. Russell Westbrook is one year away from getting a max deal of his own. At the same time, I dont want it to sound like Im disrespecting the three guys who just got their extensions. If Curry can stay healthy (although sadly, thats a huge if), hell be great. Ty Lawson is one of the leagues most underrated point guards and the general of one of the leagues most exciting and underrated teams. Jrue Holiday is still only 22 years old, only getting better and has a nice foundation to work with in Philly. But at this point, Rondos much closer to Paul, Williams and Westbrook than he is to those guys, yet for the next three seasons the money will say otherwise.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”