A couple of weeks ago — after Rajon Rondo smacked Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler for calling out the Bulls’ young players for inconsistent effort and not caring about winning — it looked like Rondo’s days in Chicago were numbered. He had been pushed to the bench (and got a couple of DNP-CDs), his role was slipping, and now he had taken a shot at the teams two best players and unquestioned leaders.
But things change quickly in the NBA.
Coach Fred Hoiberg finally — and maybe more by happenstance than design — has found a role for Rondo leading the Bulls bench unit. It’s working. And with the Bulls still fighting for a playoff slot in the East (they are currently the seven seed, but only two games clear of nine-seed Milwaukee) if they find something that works they are going to stick with it. There were already reports the Bulls had no plans to buy out Rondo before the trade deadline, now Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report says not to expect them to trade him, either.
Despite Rondo’s benching and the public back and forth, no one should expect the Bulls to move him in an admission of roster-building guilt before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Whether they wanted to or not, it was always going to be difficult to trade Rondo and his $14 million contract this season (although with just a $3 million buyout next season). In theory the Bulls would change their tune on Rondo for the right deal, but don’t expect Chicago to get an offer it would see as right. Other teams are not going to take on that salary for a point guard who can shoot, isn’t the defender he once was, and can be challenging in the locker room.
Will the Bulls buy him out after the deadline, as many around the league had suspected after Rondo ranted on Instagram? Not if Chicago is winning and he is playing a role in that. It is possible the Bulls live with this for the rest of the season if the big three veterans can just get along well enough.
None of this answers the big questions in Chicago, all of which lead back to the front office: What is the plan? If you’re going to build around Butler, you need to get more athletic and get better shooters because the guys you drafted to be that in the past few years are largely not panning out. If you’re going to blow it up, blow it up. Still, nothing will change with the front office personnel in Chicago, so the smart money is on more stop-gap measures.