Rajon Rondo, Shaq and words and actions that could lead Rondo to Sacramento
When the Dallas Mavericks traded for the services of point guard Rajon Rondo from the Celtics, many thought they were adding a piece that would make them a big contender in the NBA’s Western Conference. The skills he displayed over his career along with the skill of players like forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard Monta Ellis had some fans salivating over what they could be. Well, what some thought they could be and what they actually are did not end up being the same thing. Instead of being an additional piece on a contender, Rondo seemed to be a round peg in a square hole in Dallas. It seemed like he was just missing something there and the relationship between Rondo and the head coach, Rick Carlisle, never seemed to get on the right track. Well, that situation seemed to reach a head Tuesday night when the Mavericks were playing the Rockets in Houston in a crucial Game 2 showdown. You would think that Rondo would be up for the game and the challenge of leading his team to victory. But instead of a prepared and ready Rondo, the Mavericks point guard looked uninterested in the game and very spaced out. Viewing the game, it just seemed like something was off about him at that time. And as viewers were noticing that something was off, the coach of the Mavericks did too. When Rondo picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, Carlisle took him out of the game in favor of guard JJ Barea. Some thought he may just be taking him out due to foul trouble, but it was more than that as Rondo never saw the court the rest of the game. And the drama did not stop there with Rondo. Usually after the game, reporters meet with players and do interviews. Rondo promptly got dressed and walked out of the locker room without speaking to them. Some wondered what the next step for Rondo and the Mavericks would be. Would they play him the next game or would they sit him and go along without him? After all, some essentially believed that he quit on his team. Well, the Mavericks released a statement today and said that Rondo had a back injury in Game 2 and he will be out for the rest of the series. Asked about Rondo and if he would make an appearance in a Mavericks uniform again today, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was straight to the point and said “No, I do not.”
Essentially the Mavericks went for it all by acquiring Rondo and it did not pan out. And they essentially gave up their starting point guard( Jameer Nelson), two key reserves (forward Brandan Wright and wing player Jae Crowder) and the Mavericks 1st round pick in 2015. And in the end they were burned mightily as the marriage between the Mavericks and Rondo was toxic from the beginning. Rondo was a point guard that was used to running his own show. And Carlisle, as many have seen in his previous coaching stops, is a coach that likes to control things and run plays all game long. That mix was doomed from the beginning, especially with neither man giving any on what they were accustomed to. Many fans of the NBA have voiced their opinion on Rondo. Some are disappointed in Rondo and think he is just about over. Others have spoken of his past dealings following him to Dallas. And others even said that he quit. But the fans were not the only ones to talk about Rondo and his actions on the court. The NBA on TNT crew touched on the subject of Rondo on Tuesday after the game and as usual, there was some disagreement. Charles Barkley felt the Mavericks should go with Barea. It seemed to really both him that in this big a game, a player like Rondo would should up like he did. But on the other end of the spectrum, there was Shaquille O’Neal trying to deflect the attention off of Rondo. O’Neal, a former teammate of Rondo’s in Boston, touched on the coaching of Carlisle when it came to Rondo. He said many times that the Mavericks needed to “let him go” on the court and that Rondo could not play with the coach calling everything from the sideline. And he also went out of his way to dodge the conversation of talking about Rondo and went at Dirk Nowitzki, who struggled mightily against the Rockets in Game 2. All in all, it seemed like Shaq was more interested in defending his former teammate instead of openly criticizing what looked like a subpar and unenthused effort. But along with the talk of Shaquille O’Neal on the other things that went wrong besides Rondo, O’Neal was playing the part of owner without anyone even thinking about it.
If you are not aware, Shaquille O’Neal has some ownership with an NBA team. In 2013, O’Neal became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings. The team he once tormented and famously taunted by calling them the “Sacramento Queens” was not a team that he had ownership in. While O’Neal and new owners are now there, the fact still remains that the Kings have been stuck in neutral for a while. The team has not made the playoffs in almost a decade and they have not resembled a team that will make it in a while. But this season started with renewed optimism that they may make some noise in the West. The team was playing well under coach Mike Malone and they looked like they were finally getting it together. Big man DeMarcus Cousins was playing solid basketball and controlling his temper, small forward Rudy Gay was playing solid and new point guard Darren Collison was playing well. But all that optimism and excitement came crashing down when the Kings inexplicably fired Malone when the team started stumbling after a Cousins injury. The firing was viewed as a bad one by many people, but it was also viewed as a move Kings fans were used to them making. In the end, the Kings let Ty Corbin coach the team until they decided to bring in coach George Karl at the All-Star break. Of course the coaching change was not enough for the Kings to make a push this season and unfortunately, the combination of Gay and Cousins was not enough to lift them. That and the combination of a new system led to frustration by fans and frustration by Cousins, who at times looked like he was frustrated and took some plays off as well. Going forward change is needed and a shot in the arm is needed as well. Over time it was shown that Collison was not the guy and that Sacramento needed help there. Of course this season there was no help to be found the rest of this season. But this offseason, there may be an option that fits what they need. That option, you may ask, is Rajon Rondo.
Many have Rondo already pegged to go to Los Angeles and play with Kobe Bryant, but can anyone depend on Bryant even being healthy ever again. And with the attitude that Rondo has displayed in Dallas, it seems that some may be souring on bringing him into their franchise. In Sacramento, there would be a chance of a blowup. You have DeMarcus Cousins who has had some issues with his attitude. Those two together could be volatile. But in the same breath, Rondo can be a person that could flourish in the George Karl system. Karl has had a free-flowing offense for most of his time in the NBA. Karl is going to have to taper some of that with the presence of a big man like Cousins. But imagine Rondo at the point guard slot for them being a one-man fast break and also being able to get the basketball to high-fliers Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay on the wings on a fast break. And in the halfcourt offense, imagine him breaking down defenses and making the job for Cousins a lot easier. Rondo would easily be the best point guard that Cousins had played with. Rondo is a free agent this offseason and there will be some teams that will fight over his services. That’s why Shaquille O’Neal was thinking two moves ahead when he did not criticize Rondo like the rest of his crew. He is a former teammate of O’Neal, but he is also making it look like he stood up for him in front of the nation. That could go a long way in helping Rondo make his decision. And assuming the money is right for Rondo, he could be wearing purple and black and give the Kings their best point guard since Mike Bibby in his prime.
Rondo is coming up on what could be one of his last chances to make it happen in his career. His perceived lack of getting along with franchises has been a topic of discussion since his Boston days. But all in all, he is still a talented player. And with a big man, two wings in place and a franchise that longs for the days when they went crazy over players like Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, Rondo would be the magic elixir that Karl would need for his team. And in joining the Kings and potentially making them a team to be reckoned with, Rondo would rehab his image among some. He would go from a player many see as a malcontent to a guy that has resurrected a franchise that once had a team that was a contender. The sting from what happened in Dallas will stick with him and all of us right now. But they always say you are as bad as your last moment and as good as it too. In joining Sacramento, he could make resurrect his image and his ability to be one of the best point guards in the game. Under the tutelage of George Karl, he would be a special player for the Kings but first he has to decide to consider them. There is no question that he will be looking for more than just a good fit but a good place. And with Shaq taking a step in showing he still has love for his former teammate, Shaq could have made his biggest contribution to helping Sacramento as a minority owner of the team.