Playoff Rondo didn’t make the trip to Dallas, but it’s not like Rondo is sticking around

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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.

 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winner sits on rim, rolls off, gives Kings win

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Boston came in on a 10-game winning streak where they had played well on both ends of the court, but they also got some lucky rolls of the basketball.

Not Sunday.

With Boston down one, Marcus Smart put up a floater as time expired in Sacramento, it looked like the shot would fall, and…

Give the Kings credit, at a rough start they have gone 5-2 in November, and that despite injuries to Marvin Bagley Jr. and De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield had 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three.

The Celtics had a balanced attack with six players in double figures, but their offense was not as sharp as it has been. This was the first game it looked like they missed Gordon Hayward, who is out with a fractured hand.

Report: Last summer the Lakers, among others, were hoping Suns would buy out Aron Baynes

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Aron Baynes has been critical to the Suns racing out to a 7-4 start with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. When Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games (after testing positive for a diuretic, a banned substance), Baynes has stepped up and been exactly what the Suns needed. He is scoring 15 points per game, shooting 46.5 percent from three (which is opening up the floor for guys like Devin Booker), and providing a big body defensive presence in the paint.

You can see why the Lakers and other teams were hoping Baynes would hit the market this summer. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Suns center Aron Baynes has emerged as a cornerstone piece for Phoenix early this season, supplying defense, leadership and, yes, shot-making. Phoenix acquired Baynes on draft night, and in the weeks to come contenders such as the Lakers hoped Baynes would reach a buyout with the Suns to hit the open market, sources said. Suns general manager James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes — and are now receiving the rewards for the offseason move. Through 11 games, Baynes is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 46.8 percent 3-point shooting (two 3s made per game). Baynes will enter free agency next July, and as one team executive said, “He is positioning himself for well over $10 million per year.”

Smart move by Phoenix’s management to hold on to Baynes as an Ayton insurance policy (one they ended up needing). Plus, when trying to change a team’s culture (as Jones and Williams are working to do in Phoenix), you can’t have enough hardworking professionals in the locker room. Baynes brings that.

The Lakers thought they would have DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, but he tore his ACL over the summer. The tag team of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee has worked surprisingly well for Los Angeles to start the season.

In what will be a down free-agent market next summer, Baynes is going to be in demand. His payday is coming.

Dion Waiters on suspension: ‘It’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life.’

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Dion Waiters has yet to set foot on the court for the Miami Heat this season and is currently sitting out a 10-game suspension by the team for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He is not suspended for the gummy bears incident, but rather a series of team infractions (remember he was suspended for opening night, too, after a run-in with coach Erik Spoelstra). However, the fact this suspension came after that well-publicized disruption to the Heat is not a coincidence.

With his time off, Waiters went back to Syracuse, where he played in college, to talk to his old coach Jim Boeheim, someone Waiters sees as a father figure.

While there, Waiters talked about his suspension publicly for the first time,  speaking with Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.

“I just wanted to come up and talk to Coach,” Waiters said. “I know that’s a person who will always be there for me if I ever need anything. It’s a chance for me to come up, be around, talk to the coaches, things like that. And that’s important….

“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m in a great place,” he said. “I can only control what I can control at the end of the day, so some things you just can’t allow to take your head the other way, some things happen for a reason. If you stay locked in, if you believe and trust in yourself, trust in the work you put in, you know, it’s a minor setback. It happens. It’s life. You learn from it. The only thing I can do is move forward. Stay focused. Stay even-keeled. Let everything else take care of itself.”

Some will want to read that as Waiters being dismissive, but in reality this is the attitude Miami wants Waiters to have — that he can move on, get past whatever issues are going on between him and the team, and come back to bolster the Miami rotation.

That said, thanks to the impressive play from rookies Kendrick Nunna Heat-style player right out of central casting — and Tyler Herro, Miami hasn’t been hurting for quality guard play. Waiters, when he returns, is going to have to earn his spot in the rotation.

How did Paul George score 70 points in 44 minutes? ‘I got new shoulders’

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Paul George is back.

Not that he really went all that far away, the man did finish third in MVP voting last season, but he faded at the end of that campaign due to shoulder pain, which led to both shoulders being operated on during the offseason. That delayed his entry into the 2019-20 NBA season by a few weeks.

He has come back looking smooth: He scored 37 points in 20 minutes against Atlanta, the most points scored in fewer than 21 minutes played in NBA history. PG13 has scored 70 points in 44 minutes across the two games with an 80.9 true shooting percentage, hitting 56.3 percent from three, and he scored the most points in a Clippers home debut (37).

How is he doing it?

“I got new shoulder. I can’t say nothing else to that, I got new shoulders. And they haven’t been this healthy in a long time.”

George has looked fluid on the court, playing great defense and clearly just having fun out there.

The Clippers have yet to play George and Kawhi Leonard at the same time because pain in Leonard’s knee has kept him in street clothes the past two games.

The Clippers have George on a minutes limit right now and are letting Leonard have all the time off he wants (George will ultimately get some load management nights, too). While that’s led to pushback from some fans — and LeBron James, trying to score some PR points on the other team in town — the Clippers shrug it off. They don’t have their sites set on November wins, they are targeting April, May, and they hope June.

George already looks in peak playoff form.