Rondo no longer benched; Bulls ‘different than what I anticipated’

Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo smiles before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Chicago.
Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo smiles before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Chicago. AP

Thanks to a glut of illness and a scheduled rest day for Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo returned to the Chicago Bulls’ lineup as their sixth man Tuesday night against the Wizards.

The veteran guard had plenty to say about his five-game benching beforehand, calling it the most confusing situation of his 10-year career. And though he spoke in calm, measured tones and even injected humor throughout his 11-minute session with reporters, he emphasized he has had little communication with Coach Fred Hoiberg.

“I got a slight explanation from another guy on the staff. A guy told me that he was saving me from myself,” the former University of Kentucky star said. “I don’t want to say any names. But that’s what the explanation was. In Cleveland, they told me I had a negative 20 (plus-minus rating) in Indiana at halftime. I think that was part of the reason.”

What did Rondo think of that?

“I thought it was (expletive),” Rondo said. “Save me from myself. I never heard that before in my life. But I guess he was trying to do the best thing for me.”

Rondo said he has been playing pickup basketball at a local middle school to stay in shape and said his torn ACL in 2012 has helped him keep perspective. But the benching clearly bemuses him.

“When I signed here, why I wanted to come here, it’s a lot different than what I anticipated,” Rondo said.

At one point, a Bulls’ media relations staffer tried to cut short the interview before Rondo interjected.

“They can drill me for the next four or five minutes,” Rondo said, smiling. “I haven’t had this much attention in awhile. I appreciate this.”

Rondo said he has had no further contact with management since his Dec. 31 meeting after his first full game on the bench. At the time, Rondo conveyed that he would like to be elsewhere if he remained benched.

“I know a little bit of what’s going on, but it’s out of my control really, as far as what they have going on,” Rondo said. “So I’m going to have to play better.”

Asked if he had been told directly that there’s a youth movement, Rondo danced around that question.

But he elaborated on his approach to playing later.

“You’re only as good as your coach thinks you are. That’s a big part of each individual’s success in the NBA,” Rondo said. “You look at James Harden and the year he’s having. (Rockets coach Mike) D'Antoni turned over the keys to him and he’s having his best year ever with the right personnel around him. Certain guys got an opportunity to shine and play without restraint and certain guys will rise to the occasion. And some won’t.”

How is his relationship with Hoiberg?

“We speak. Cordial. Nothing much to say,” Rondo said. “Trying to get a win.”

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