Rajon Rondo wore the headband, on New Year’s Eve. He had the headwear on, while his Bulls lost another one to a division foe. This time it was the Milwaukee Bucks who watched as Rondo watched, missing the entire game as a healthy scratch just a day after sitting out the second half of a game he originally started in, as Chicago lost in Indianapolis.
The Bulls signed Rondo to a two-year, $27.4 million deal in the offseason, seemingly bidding against themselves for a player who had flamed out both professionally and personally in his three previous stops in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento. With Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s decision to dump the former All-Star in the starting lineup in exchange for 2013-14 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Rondo has admitted that he’ll ask to meet with the team’s front office in order to suss out his options moving forward after just 29 games as a Chicago Bull.
He couldn’t even make it until 2017. Who, besides the obvious in red and black, didn’t see this coming? From Vincent Goodwill at CSN Chicago:
“Absolutely,” said Rondo when asked if he accomplished enough in the NBA for the Bulls to accommodate him on a trade or some transaction to allow him to seek another team should the benching continue.
“Gar (Forman, Bulls GM) and I will have a talk. We’ll talk tonight and go from there. I don’t know if it’s right now, maybe the next 30, 18, 45 minutes. Tonight, before ’17 (the clock strikes midnight).”
“No, I’m not surprised. Not surprised,” Rondo said. “It’s been a tough season. Certain buttons are being pushed and the Bulls are trying to figure things out.”
The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson noted that the Chicago head coach spoke with Rondo in the short term between the team’s two losses over the holiday weekend:
“He was great, very professional” Hoiberg said. “We talked about accepting whatever role he has and helping our guys stay ready.
“I was proud of how he handled the situation (Friday night in Indiana). He was cheering for the guys from the bench and talking to them when they came out for rotational reasons. That is very admirable for a guy who has had the type of career he has had.
“I know he’ll be ready when he’s called upon. It’s just the decision we decided to go with to see if we can change the flow of our team.”
Rondo, to his credit, has handled the demotion with on-record ease:
“I’m going to explode,” Rondo said sarcastically about his response to being benched. “Nah, I’m going to continue to work. Play more 1-on-1. Stay fit. Take care of my body. Lift. And give these young guys as much advice as I can while I’m on the bench supporting them.”
Rondo’s role in the flow of the Bulls (16-18, losers of 14 of 22) being altered seemingly beyond repair is up for debate, but neither side in this discussion can get away from the fact that Rajon is part of the problem.
The 30-year old, a champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics prior to a career-altering ACL tear in 2013, averages 7.2 points, 7.1 assists and 6.5 rebounds a game, but he acts as perhaps the worst defensive guard in the NBA. His inability to shoot leaves the Chicago offense (ranked dead last in three-pointers made, attempted, three-pointer percentage, Effective Field Goal percentage and second to last in field goal percentage) at a massive disadvantage that even the presence of the sub-MVP stylings of Jimmy Butler cannot overcome.
Replacement Michael Carter-Williams is not your typical former Rookie of the Year. His 2013-14 season was the prize of one of the worst freshman class performances in NBA history, and he’s been traded twice since taking the award. MCW even missed Chicago’s training camp due to the late timing of his most recent trade, and an early-season wrist and knee injury knocked him out of the rotation from Halloween until Christmas.
He contributed nine points, six rebounds and an assist in the second half against Indiana, but Carter-Williams missed five of six shots against the Bucks and shoots 23.8 percent on the year. His Milwaukee counterpart, rookie Malcolm Brogdon, contributed 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in the Bucks’ win on Saturday. MCW seems a potent and credible replacement to take a chance on, but only in theory at this point.
To the great shame of the Chicago front office, Rajon Rondo never even looked like a proper fit for the Bulls in theory, much less inaction in action.
The point guard was asked to leave the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 after just a few months with the team, months that saw his skill set drag the previously-top ranked offense into the muck. His time with the Sacramento Kings included his role in the verbal attack and outing of respected referee Bill Kennedy. In terms of pure basketball prowess, he is a millstone of the highest order – a poor player that nevertheless finds himself in high usage situations.
The problem here is that, through what has to be characterized as “his game” and through the off (although, technically, on)-court actions, Rajon Rondo has achieved a state of basketball irrelevance that hardly portends well for his future. If Rondo has his way, he’ll soon be sent to his fifth NBA team in less than a 25-month span. At this point in his career, despite the nice box score stats, he remains an uneasy watch: the basketball non-entity that outed a grown man against his wishes just because didn’t agree with the way a sports game was going.
The Chicago Bulls front office will circle the wagons, as that s the way they’ve done thing for years under owner Jerry Reinsdorf and his hires, and the team will be loath to admit its mistake in signing Rondo. Waiving the point guard isn’t out of the question – the second year of his two-year contract is only guaranteed for $3 million, which the Bulls could stretch out over three years at relatively little payroll or cap loss. Alas, this isn’t Christmas Eve, so the Bulls probably won’t fire last summer’s sparkly new appointee. Rondo, even at a quarter of the price, is untradeable.
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Rajon Rondo is not a player that can help an NBA team with his NBA play, and everyone but the Chicago Bulls seemed to know this last summer prior to Chicago’s decision to hand him a guaranteed $14 million to play basketball this season. What the Chicago Bulls apparently did anticipate, is the thoughtful and professional way Rajon Rondo has handled his demotion – something we didn’t think him capable of after his time in Dallas and Sacramento.
It is early, though.
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