In the first half of Dallas’ Game 2 loss to Houston Tuesday, Rajon Rondo so nonchalantly walked the ball up the court — under no pressure from a defender — that he got an eight-second backcourt violation.
That lack of awareness and effort seems to sum up Rajon Rondo’s playoff effort in Dallas.
Playoff Rondo, who was a thing in Boston, did not make the flight to Texas.
Rondo has struggled to fit in with the Mavericks since coming to Dallas in a December blockbuster trade. He has clashed with coach Rick Carlisle, mainly about offensive freedom and control, with both sides having said they worked through it and that it was all good now. But the playoffs have a way of stripping away the latest coat of varnish and exposing things as they truly are — and it is clear Rondo is not a fit with what Dallas does. He makes them worse.
Rondo has played 37 minutes total in the first two playoff games this season and Dallas has been outscored by 35 points in that time.
Rondo picked up two fouls and a technical in the first :36 seconds of the second half Tuesday night. Carlisle promptly benched him, and Rondo didn’t see the court the rest of the game — because J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton were simply better. Carlisle and the Mavericks need to find a way to beat the Rockets (Dallas trails 0-2 in the series), and Rondo does not help that cause.
After the game, Rondo avoided the media while Carlisle largely dodged the Rondo question.
“You have to ask him (whether he cared about being benched),” Carlisle said in a postgame press conference broadcast on NBA TV. “All I know right now is that we need everybody at their competitive best. This isn’t about one guy who did or didn’t play. This is about everybody pulling in the same direction for the organization. That’s what it’s about.”
The other thing that has become clear: Rondo is gone from Dallas this summer.
He is an unrestricted free agent, and there will be no shortage of suitors — expect the Lakers among others to reach out. But it will be interesting to see if any GM still will offer him the max deal Danny Ainge had said Rondo deserves. Not likely, not even in this “market max” year where some guys will get overpaid. Rondo’s playoff performance likely ensured that. Maybe more interesting, how many years will Rondo be offered? He seems to have lost some of his explosiveness following years of injuries (including a bad ACL one), which hurts both his offensive penetration and his defense. Combine that with a lack of outside shooting and Rondo destroys offensive spacing.
That’s what has him on the bench in Dallas, and he may not see the court much at all the rest of this series. Dallas doesn’t want to be one-and-done in the playoffs.
But Rondo wants to be one-and-done in Dallas. And it shows.