By ROBERT LEE
Journal Sports Writer
WALTHAM - Before the Celtics won a championship two seasons ago, Boston coach Doc Rivers grew tired of NBA experts telling him that they couldn't win a title with a second-year point guard running the team.
All Rajon Rondo and the Celtics did was prove those critics wrong. Rivers never doubted his point guard, telling everyone that Rondo was the Celtics' point guard of the future and that he believed that Rondo will be a Celtic for life.
He might be right.
Facing a Monday deadline, the Celtics and Rondo reached an agreement in principal on a contract late Sunday night, reportedly locking up the 23-year-old up-and-coming star to a five-year deal worth at least $55 million.
"I'm thankful for what I'm signing for," Rondo said at practice today, but added that he has not seen the contract yet.
"I'm blessed, and the situation I'm in, I can't ask for more."
Rondo said that he met with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge after Sunday night's victory over New Orleans and the two had a heart-to-heart conversation about life.
"Danny's like a mentor," Rondo said. "It was a long conversation. We talked maybe about an hour and he was just telling me things that comes with that kind of contract and the situations I may face and he was just kind of preparing me for life after this day is over."
Rondo said that Ainge has always been in his corner, and Rivers said that it was because of Ainge that the Celtics traded for Rondo in the 2006 draft. Rondo was drafted by Phoenix 21st overall before being traded to the Celtics along with Brian Grant for Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2007 draft and cash considerations.
Rivers was not impressed with Rondo's highlight tapes but Ainge, who has followed Rondo since high school, convinced Rivers that trading for him would be a good thing. Rivers said that he was glad Ainge did because he can't imagine coaching the Celtics without Rondo on the team.
"Danny and I talk a lot. He expects a lot out of me and he has a lot of confidence in me," Rondo said.
Rondo has done everything he can to be the best point guard he can be for the Celtics, Rivers said.
"I'm really happy for him," Rivers said. "He earned it. He deserves it."
The Celtics initially offered Rondo a five-year deal worth $45 million, but Rondo turned that offer down because he wanted to be paid as one of the top five point guards in the league because he believes he is one of the league's top five point guards.
"I believe I'm one of the best at what I do," Rondo said. "That's how I play and I workout and work as hard as I can to be the best."
Rondo said that he was willing to go on the open market after this season and tend offers from other teams if he was not able to make out a deal before Monday's deadline, but he figured that the Celtics would match any offer that he got if they couldn't sign him before the deadline.
"I figured [a deal] would get done eventually," Rondo said. "I talked to [Celtics co-owner] Wyc [Grousbeck] and he told me they wanted me here and I felt the same way and we got a deal done."
With a deal in hand, Rondo can now concentrate on quarterbacking the Celtics to the NBA title.