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Rajon Rondo: Free agency not ‘closed,’ but Mavericks have ‘the upside’

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Dallas Mavericks high fives with head coach Rick Carlisle against the Washington Wizards on December 30, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Mavericks are confident they’ll re-sign Rajon Rondo, who’ll become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

But they can’t know he’ll return.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement made contracts unviable for most highly paid players, so Rondo couldn’t re-up for a max deal – what he has said he deserveswhen Dallas traded for him last month. So, Rondo will play out the season, and both sides will re-visit this in the summer.

But how is Rondo leaning right now?

Rondo, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“My focus has been basketball, basketball, basketball, not necessarily being a free agent,” Rondo said. “I mean obviously I think (the Mavericks will) have the upside (in free agency). I wouldn’t say it’s wide open (in terms of considering other teams), but I wouldn’t say it’s closed (solely to the Mavericks) either because obviously they are the team that came and got me and from Day One they’ve been very loyal and very supportive in this transition for me.”

Rondo will most likely play for the Mavericks next season. They knew his desire for a max contract, and they still traded for him. They surely also talked to him before completing, and if he gave negative indications about re-signing, I doubt the trade would have gone through. They also clearly see him as a good fit for their team, which raises the amount they’d pay him.

Celtics fans who are Comcast Sportsnet New England subscribers who want to watch Rondo’s homecoming Friday night on a live stream can follow this link and see it for free.

That said, Rondo is wise not to commit now.

He has never been a free agent, signing an extension with with Boston following his rookie contract. He should explore his options.

Rondo has been linked to the Lakers and Knicks, and Los Angeles and New York are appealing markets. Playing with Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony could intrigue Rondo, a better distributor than scorer.

Of course, Dallas also has plenty of talented players to receive Rondo’s passes. The Mavericks will just have a lot of moving parts next offseason. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Devin Harris have guaranteed salaries without an option for 2015-16.

So far, Rondo appears happy in Dallas. He’s definitely winning at a rate he hadn’t in Boston for a couple years.

He’ll take the rest of the season to evaluate the Mavericks as he helps them make a championship push. Then, when he hits free agency, he’ll have a better sense whether he wants to stay. Of course, it helps Dallas can offer more money than any other team.

Whether or not Rondo said anything, the Mavericks are the clear favorites to sign him this summer, though they’re hardly locks. Rondo confirming that perception should tell other teams they still have a chance, but that they’re fighting an uphill battle. This is a signal to all teams, Dallas included, a really good offer will be necessary to land him.

Rondo is playing his cards exactly right.