BOSTON — The Boston Celtics played their first preseason game of the 2014-15 season on Monday night, but the most important piece of their future wasn’t on the floor.

Point guard Rajon Rondo spent the night on the bench interacting with teammates during Boston’s 98-78 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Earlier in the evening, while wearing a protective wrap over the broken left hand that will sideline him for the start of the new season, Rondo appeared on the parquet and put on a shooting clinic for those diehards who gathered 90 minutes before tipoff.

Rondo’s future became a bit more cloudy on Monday when the NBA announced a lucrative extension to its national TV deal, one that is expected to pay the league a whopping $24 billion over the next nine years. TV revenues are set to jump from $940 million per season under the current agreement to $2.66 billion per season.

The new TV deal isn’t a surprise, though the value was probably higher than most anticipated. It’s going to cause an even greater climb in the salary cap in the coming seasons and that’s where the difficulty comes for the future-minded Celtics. And it all goes back to Rondo.

The 28-year-old point guard is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Despite the uncertainty that comes with reaching the open market, the timing seemed beneficial to Boston. The salary cap was expected to spike when the new TV deal starts in 2016, so it seemed Rondo would have been negotiating before that new money kicked in.

Now you’ll hear a lot about “smoothing” and the prospect of the NBA limiting the rise of the salary cap in the coming seasons. Until that issue is settled, it’s a little more …read more