Heated Exchange With Carlisle Isn’t Biggest Concern About Rajon Rondo


The video went viral pretty quickly, and the heated exchange between Rajon Rondo and head coach Rick Carlisle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 99-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors has been discussed as much as Derrick Rose’s latest setback.

The dust up led to Rondo sitting out the final 20 minutes of the game and the mid-season acquisition dodging reporters following the win. It isn’t too surprising the shouting match garnered a lot of attention. Star player and coach screaming at each other during a timeout? Starting point guard benched in the second half of a close game? You had to know Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith would be all over that one.

Of course the situation wasn’t ideal. But it happens. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said as much after the game:

"“S— happens. Not the first time, not the last time. It’ll happen again. It’s not just Rajon. It’s a long season. In my 15 years, I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count, and we survive every time.”"

He’s right, things like this happen quite a bit, especially behind closed doors. The real concern about Rajon Rondo in Dallas isn’t his relationship with Carlisle, it’s whether or not he’s a good long-term option for the Mavericks.

Yes, the defense has improved greatly since Rondo arrived. The Mavericks had a defensive rating of 109.0 in 27 games before trading for the four-time all-star. Since his arrival they’ve been markedly better, with a rating of 103.3.

Offensively they’ve gone the other direction. They’re scoring 102.1 points per game since adding Rondo in late December. With Jameer Nelson running the show the Mavericks scored 110.1 per contest.

The blame can’t be placed squarely on Rondo’s shoulders. The Mavericks jumped out to a torrid start offensively that they were unlikely to sustain over the course of 82 games. There was sure to be a dip in production eventually.

But, and there’s always a but, it’s pretty evident that the offense doesn’t have the natural flow that made it so deadly in the first few months of the year. No numbers necessary, the eye-test tells you that.

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I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a huge believer in Rondo. I always thought he was more a product of the future Hall of Fame players that surrounded him than a franchise cornerstone. He can’t shoot. At all. He’s connecting on 41% of his field goal attempts this year, and hasn’t shot any better since 2012-13.

He’s a good distributor, obviously, but the one-dimensional aspect of his game offensively is a huge hindrance to how the Mavericks want to operate in the half court. Rondo’s inability to knock down open jumpers, and worse, his reluctance to even attempt them to keep the defense honest, shrinks the floor and eliminates the spacing so imperative to Carlisle’s scheme.

The Mavericks were down by nine points when the shouting match occurred. They outscored the Raptors 46-30 in the final 20 minutes with Rondo wearing warmups on the sideline. Coincidence? Probably not. Devin Harris and J.J. Barea combined for 12 points and six assists in that span. Barea hit two three-pointers in the final frame as the Mavericks completed the comeback. Rondo is 1-6 from long-range in his last eight games.

Those two may not be the defenders Rondo is capable of being, but they fit the offensive scheme. Harris is shooting 35% from three-point range this season, Barea, too. Rondo is a 26% career three-point shooter and will rarely even attempt them.

Look, we’ve known for a while what Rondo is. He’s ultra-competitive and sometimes hot-headed. He’s a wizard with the ball in his hands finding teammates, but he’s not a threat to score and frankly, doesn’t appear to have much interest in improving his jump shot.

Feb 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) and guard Raymond Felton (2) and guard Rajon Rondo (9) watch the game from the bench during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Raptors 99-92. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas is 16-9 with Rondo in the lineup, a winning percentage of .640. They are 23-11 without him, a winning percentage of .676. Not a huge difference, and the impact he’s made defensively has been great. But with the Mavericks needing a bucket would you want him in the game over Harris or Barea? Probably not, and Rick Carlisle isn’t in the business of stroking egos. He’ll go with what’s working, whether it’s Rondo or his backups.

But despite all that, Rondo and Carlisle will be fine. They’re professionals. They have a common goal and will work to reach it together. But if they fall short I wouldn’t expect Rondo to re-sign with the Mavericks, even if he’s open to it.

Monta Ellis is the same age and should have priority status over Rondo in free agency. I don’t see any way he doesn’t opt out of his current deal, which would pay him $8.7 million. Tyson Chandler is a more important re-sign, too. We’ve seen the negative impact Rondo has had on Chandler Parsons and his production. And surely they’ll consult with Dirk Nowitzki.

That’s the core. Rondo was supposed to be the final piece, but if it doesn’t work he’s got to be the odd man out.

Everyone knew the potential repercussions of acquiring Rondo, but the deal had to be made. And in the grand scheme of things they didn’t sacrifice much to get him. They weren’t going to be able to re-sign Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder was replaceable, and the draft picks weren’t anything spectacular. The same could be said about Jameer Nelson.

The Mavericks might not win the championship this year with Rondo, but they certainly weren’t going to win it without him. Either way, he’s not a great fit with the scheme or personnel. Don’t be surprised if he turns into a half-year rental.

Next: Mavericks Use Big Fourth Quarter to Down Raptors

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