The parting of ways between Rajon Rondo and the Dallas Mavericks didn’t exactly come under the most pleasant of circumstances.
Rondo struggled to fit in from both a personality and a performance standpoint, and rather than publicly disclose that the team was benching him for the rest of the playoffs, the Mavericks floated a “back injury” story to avoid dealing with a needless controversy.
The pairing was so poisonous to the Dallas franchise that the team had nothing but hard feelings for the way things transpired — so much so that the Mavericks decided against giving Rondo any portion of their bonus money they earned for participating in the postseason.
Multiple sources: Rajon Rondo did not receive a playoff share from the Dallas Mavericks.
Teams that reached the first round of the playoffs were given $208,940 apiece this season as part of the league’s playoff pool distribution, and may divide up that money any way they choose.
Often times it’s split up equally among teammates, and some clubs will give part of it to trainers, ball boys or other ancillary staff members, as well.
Rondo obviously doesn’t need the money. But in case he had any remaining doubts about how the Mavericks felt about him, getting stiffed on his portion of a playoff share should provide a not-so-subtle reminder that he’s no longer welcome in Dallas.
Report: Mavericks and Rajon Rondo ‘made a mutual decision to part ways,’ back injury story was nonsense
After a disastrous 36-second stint to start the second half of Game 2, where Rondo picked up two personal fouls and a technical in an immature display that had many feeling like he quit on his team, he was benched by his head coach, never to return to the Dallas lineup.
Rondo never really fit with the Mavs, as the concerns about the impact of his poor shooting in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow offense quickly manifested and were never solved. The hope of a “Playoff Rondo” sighting was crushed after his poor Game 1 performance and the appearance he gave up in Game 2.
The Mavs and Rondo made a mutual decision to part ways the next day, sources told ESPNDallas.com, framing the reasoning as a back injury as a favor to try to help the four-time All-Star point guard save face.
The truth was that the Mavs didn’t want Rondo, who was going to be replaced in the starting lineup regardless, pouting and rubbing off on other players, Ellis in particular. Essentially, the Mavs made a drastic move in an attempt to do damage control on a chemistry crisis.
Just as we all suspected.
The back injury story was nonsense, if only because Rondo had been playing through it all along, and it was clear that his demeanor (and not his back) was what was hurting the team the most.
Telling the truth publicly at the time, that Rondo was a cancerous addition to the Mavericks who would be benched the rest of the way, would have only caused needless controversy for the remaining players in the locker room who were still battling to try to win a first-round playoff series.
It’ll be very interesting to see where Rondo lands as an unrestricted free agent after all of this — and especially at what price.
Surprisingly well-rounded Rockets win second playoff series in 18 years
But the Rockets guard allowed himself only a quick clap in celebration.
A minute and a half later, he helped defend Tyson Chandler in the post, peeled off, swiped a pass, raced up court and dished to Terrence Jones for a dunk while knocking Monta Ellis into the stanchion – and the Mavericks out of the playoffs.
Showing its prowess on both ends of the floor, Houston won its second playoff series in 18 years with a 103-94 Game 5 win over Dallas on Tuesday. The Rockets will face the Clippers or Spurs in the second round.
“This is just the beginning,” said Harden, who led Houston with 28 points and eight assists.
I just might be.
Dwight Howard (18 points, 19 rebounds, four blocks and four steals) looks healthy and lively, and he raises the Rockets’ ceiling considerably. Harden dragged them to the No. 2 seed, but he could have carried them only so far in the postseason. A powerful inside force opens possibilities on both sides of the court.
Also helping Houston: Sound defense.
The Rockets were better defensively than offensively throughout the regular season, but they’d essentially played the first four games of this series trying to outscore the Mavericks. That style sure changed Tuesday.
A fast pace disguises just how poor the offensive output was in Game 5. The points per 100 possessions per NBA.com – 95.5 for Houston, 83.9 for Dallas – would have sandwiched the 76ers (93.0) for the NBA’s worst mark during the regular season. And Philadelphia held last place by a wide margin.
“If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to like it when it gets dirty and nasty, because that’s the way it gets a lot of times,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “A lot of times, it just becomes a fistfight game where no one can make shots.”
In this fistfight, Houston got key help from Josh Smith (20 points and eight rebounds) and Jones (15 points and five rebounds). With so many preseason predictions focusing on what the Rockets lacked – defense from Harden, depth after Daryl Morey dismantled so much a good team in search of a third star – they had plenty Tuesday.
The Mavericks’ lack of depth, on the other hand, proved decisive.
Their top trade acquisition, Rajon Rondo, was excommunicated. Their top free agent signing, Chandler Parsons, is seriously injured (and so was his backup, Richard Jefferson). And their top scorer, Ellis (25 points), was banged up before finally leaving the game after his collision with Harden.
Dirk Nowitzki needs more help than he got, though his teammates offered as much as they could. Despite a horrendous shooting start from Nowitzki and the Rockets repeatedly putting him in pick-and-rolls he couldn’t defend throughout the series, Dallas competed until the closing moments of the fourth quarter.
“In the end, they had a little more left in the tank, and It was a bit a battle of attrition,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “But they’re very worthy of advancing. They’re legit. They’ve got a great chance at the whole thing.”
Report: Lakers interested in signing Rajon Rondo as a free agent ‘only at a certain low price’
But after a rocky tenure in Dallas that involved clashes with his head coach, a negative net rating in his time on the court, and a mysterious back injury that likely put an end to his time with the Mavericks, there’s no question that Rondo has become a bit less desirable.
As for just how much all of that has affected his chances of signing with the Lakers this summer, well — it’s still something that both Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are in the process of sorting out.
So there remains a distinct possibility in today’s space-and-shoot NBA that the Los Angeles Lakers will be the torchbearers for the old school and sign the pass-first (nay, pass-only) Rondo to a free-agent contract this summer.
But what should be made clear, according to team sources, is that Buss is not the believer he was earlier in the season when it comes to Rondo, and Kupchak is toting enough healthy skepticism that he sees Rondo as value only at a certain low price. …
The Lakers have higher priorities when it comes to spending their precious 2015 salary-cap space. They are hopeful of buying a foundational piece—something they aren’t convinced Rondo is.
The question with Rondo is whether or not you believe he’s salvageable, and whether or not he can coexist with Lakers head coach Byron Scott.
Teams began to sag heavily off of Rondo defensively because of his poor shooting, and he had been unable to make them pay, at least during his time in Dallas. He also no longer has the speed to consistently blow by defenders on the perimeter and get all the way to the basket.
If the Lakers are going to sign Rondo, then it needs to be at a greatly-reduced price. It seems as though Kupchak and Buss are in agreement on this, which is good news for the team’s future — if in fact they won’t overpay to chase questionable talent that only has a small chance of jumpstarting the rebuilding process.
PBT Extra: Rockets must adjust to new Mavericks starting lineup in Game 5
Normally by Game 5 of a series we’re through most of the major adjustments in a series — everyone knows what everyone else is going to do, it’s about execution under pressure.
The Rockets and Mavericks Game 5 is different, and that’s what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.
The addition of J.J. Barea with Monta Ellis as starters — and the subtraction of Rajon Rondo — upped the tempo and threw off the Rockets defense in Game 4. Now it’s up to Kevin McHale to make the next set of adjustments, and Houston to defend better.