With a little more than five minutes remaining and the Mavericks trailing the Bulls by seven points on Friday, Rajon Rondo was subbed out by Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle, and finished the rest of the game watching from the bench.
The Mavericks closed the gap, and were within a single possession in the game’s closing seconds before ultimately suffering the loss.
Rondo, of course, was a midseason addition via trade from Boston, and is a former All-Star who theoretically was brought in to run the show precisely in these crunch time situations. So, not surprisingly, Carlisle was asked why he benched his starting point guard afterward — five separate times.
Coach Rick Carlisle repeatedly referred to Rondo’s crunch-time benching as a “coach’s decision” during his postgame news conference and declined to discuss the strategic logic of not playing Rondo down the stretch.
“It’s called coach’s decision, and that’s how we’re going to roll,” Carlisle said after the fifth question on the subject. “Next question.” …
“Coach made a decision. It’s as simple as that,” said Rondo, who had six points on 3-of-9 shooting, four assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes. “I’ve been in this game a long time. It’s not like it’s the end of the world. I like what Coach Carlisle has done for me this year. I don’t have any regrets.” …
“Listen, if you want to make it a blow-up story, be my guest,” Carlisle said. “Go talk to him. It’s a coach’s decision.”
It’s not a huge story, and likely won’t become one thanks to Rondo’s relatively chill response.
Benching Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons or Monta Ellis in this situation would be a much greater cause for concern going forward, because those are the guys the offense is centered around, and they usually play the bulk of the minutes.
Rondo has to know that a 3-of-9 shooting performance to that point, with only four assists against two turnovers, isn’t going to be good enough to get his team where it wants to go. Carlisle was likely sending that message, and doing so in a regular season matchup that took place before the All-Star break seems perfectly harmless.