If playing in the brutal Western Conference isn’t enough of a detriment to Dallas going on an NBA Finals run, they might have another roadblock to contending: themselves.
On Tuesday night against the Raptors, Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo got into a heated exchange with head coach Rick Carlisle when Rondo supposedly didn’t run a play called by Carlisle. Carlisle was rightly furious and promptly sat Rondo for the rest of the game. It also made for an awkward postgame presser.
As a result of this altercation, Rondo was suspended one game. (Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, which they subsequently lost.)
The timing of this is a little bizarre, as heading into Wednesday’s game, the Mavericks were riding a three-game winning streak while winning nine out of their last 12. If Rondo is all about being part of a winning lineup, why pout?
Dallas has generally done good things since they acquired Rondo from the Boston Celtics back in December. The Mavs had a clear need at point guard, and as one of the more prototypical pass-first point guards, Rondo presumably fit in like a glove. Dallas has gone 20-12 with Rondo, while going 19-8 without him. Rondo has also missed a few games with various ailments, too.
It was also thought that Rondo would likely re-sign with the Mavericks after the season (at least that was the plan for Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban), but that may be in peril in light of this latest difference of opinion. This wasn’t just one instance either. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports there has been a disconnect between Rondo and Carlisle for a long time. Suffice to say, the relationship between Rondo and Carlisle has been tenuous at best.
Perhaps Rondo is all about himself and is only looking at the bottom line when it comes to dollars and cents. As you probably know, Rondo will be a free agent in the summer and will no doubt be looking for a max contract. Granted he was never a scorer, it’s safe to say Rondo still wants to be more involved in the offense.
After all, he’s playing just 27.1 minutes per game with the Mavs. This after he played 31.7 minutes per game with the Celtics this season. While with Boston, Rondo averaged 8.2 points, 11.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds. With Dallas, Rondo is averaging just 9.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Rondo clearly isn’t playing like he did in Boston, and in his mind, that might affect the way he gets paid.
Reading the tea leaves, it seems Rondo marches to the beat of his own drum. While a gifted player, Rondo is well capable of upsetting team chemistry, just as he did in Boston when he was teammates with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Rondo has had a history of tuning out authority, and I guess it’s no shock that he has butt heads with Carlisle. In Boston, he was labeled as “stubborn.”
On the surface, the incident appears to reflect the “stubborn” label that Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck gave the point guard during a TV interview back in September.
“He’s super stubborn,” Grousbeck told WBZ-TV. “I don’t know how coachable he really is.
“I know if you ask Doc [Rivers], ‘Was he the most coachable guy, or in the top half, 50 percent,’ he’d say, ‘No, he’s in the bottom 50 percent of being coachable.’ It’s hard with him,” Grousbeck added.
If Dallas has ideas of going on a deep run through the playoffs, the relationship between Rondo and Carlisle obviously has to be repaired. This relationship can’t be broken heading into the playoffs. As of right now, the Mavs are slotted in as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. However, there’s time for the Mavs to make a charge and put this distraction behind them.
Rondo has probably not felt particularly welcome in Dallas, and he’s just letting it be known, although it’s not the savviest of moves as he approaches free agency. He has the feel of a player looking for his and his alone.
That could all change, though. If Rondo wants to buy in and amend things with Carlisle, he could go out on a positive note. Rondo holds all the trump cards, and it’s truly up to him to determine how his era with the Mavs is defined.