Point guard Rajon Rondo never had a chance to be successful with the Dallas Mavericks last season.
It was a bad fit from the beginning.
The Mavs were a team of slash-to-the-basket players, while Rondo had thrived in his career getting the ball to shooters after he penetrated the lane. When the Mavs acquired Rondo in a Dec. 18 trade with the Boston Celtics, it was only a matter of time before that trade — or Rondo — would implode.
The implosion came during a Feb. 24 game in Dallas against the Toronto Raptors, a tad over two months after the trade. It all started when an angry coach Rick Carlisle called timeout after Rondo refused to run the play Carlisle wanted.
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On the way to the bench during the timeout, Rondo loudly cursed at Carlisle, and Carlisle loudly cursed back at Rondo. Another Rondo outburst occurred in the locker room after that game, and the Mavs suspended the point guard for the next game.
A little more than two months later, another disagreement between Rondo and Carlisle led to Rondo being benched in the middle of Game 2 of the Mavs’ first-round payoff series against the Houston Rockets. Afterward, the Mavs and Rondo agreed to part, and Rondo’s short-lived career with the Mavs was finished.
Rondo signed a one-year, $10 million free-agent contract this past summer with the Sacramento Kings, whom the Mavs play at Monday at Sleep Train Arena.
The former University of Kentucky star is off to a good start under Coach George Karl.
“Rondo’s having a great year,” Carlisle said after Sunday’s practice. “They’ve surrounded him with a lot of shooting, which is really important. He’s taken advantage of the situation, and the guys that are playing with him are playing extremely well. It’s a situation that’s just clicking on a lot of levels.”
Rondo is averaging 12.4 points, leads the NBA in assists with 11 per game, and is tied for sixth in double-doubles with eight. He also leads the league in triple-doubles with four, is 15th in steals with 1.8 per game, and is shooting 35.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
The solid start from Rondo comes in the nick of time for the 10-year veteran, who will be a free agent next summer and looking for a maximum long-term contract.
“George has done a great job of putting him in a position where he can really maximize his abilities,” Carlisle said. “Coming off of this year, he’s a max player next year.
“Somebody’s going to have to back up the truck to get him. That’s how well he’s playing. And George has a lot to do with it. He’s a great coach.”
Rondo is tied for eighth in the NBA in minutes played at 36.1 per game. He went seven consecutive games where he dished out at least 10 assists a game, capped by at 18-assist night at Miami.
Rondo had 20 assists in a 127-112 overtime loss in Charlotte on Nov. 23.
The tough job of slowing Rondo on Monday goes to Mavs guard Deron Williams.
“Rondo is not as much the scorer as a lot of these other point guards,” Williams said. “But the way he attacks, he gets others involved. He’s just as dangerous with his rebounding and his cutting. It’s definitely a lot you have to pay attention to.”