Rajon Rondo has agreed to join the Kings on a one-year deal for just under $10 million. Less than two years ago, Rondo was turning down a contract extension from the Celtics because he wanted to get a bigger deal in free agency. Now it looks like the Celtics dodged a bullet with that extension. Rondo left Dallas looking washed up and disinterested. He’s signed a last-chance deal with possibly the only franchise crazy and desperate enough to take a flier on him.
Rondo reportedly said he wanted a one-year deal to reclaim his lost status as a max-level player, but he likely didn’t have much of a choice. After the year he just had, it would be hard for a GM to justify giving Rondo a long-term contract. It’s been two years since Rondo’s ACL injury, and he hasn’t shown anything close to the level of play he exhibited before the injury. Last year was supposed to be his first season at full health and looking like the old Rondo. Instead, he looked like a mediocre point guard who couldn’t shoot or hit free throws. Rondo has only trended down in the past few years, and it’s hard to imagine any GM excited about the prospect of betting multiple years of cap space on him bucking that trend.
One of the biggest concerns with Rondo is his effort and demeanor in the locker room. When he was at the end of his run with the Celtics, his moodiness and temperament were written off as frustration with being on a bad team, but this continued when he played for Dallas. Even when he was on a winning team, Rondo continued to play mediocre basketball and infamously clashed with Rick Carlisle.
With everything that was on the line for Rondo last season, to play and behave the way he did shows he has a hard time getting out of his own way. Last season, Rondo had a chance to capitalize on a contract year and show league executives why he was worth a max deal. Instead, he showed them the worst side of him: the petulant, selfish player who doesn’t even help your team score. The electric, creative playmaker of old was nowhere to be seen and teams stayed away. Luckily for Rondo, the Kings have given him a do-over.
Rondo finds himself with the same opportunity he had last season: playing in a contract year to prove he’s worth a big contract. It’ll be a lot harder this time around; Rondo has done nothing but damage his reputation since last year, and teams are going to remember the Carlisle fiasco. Rondo needs to do the exact opposite of what he did last year: he needs to play well and be a team player. If he goes to Sacramento and fights with George Karl, or if he continues to put up lackluster performances, nobody will take a chance on a volatile, mediocre, 30 year-old point guard. If he isn’t careful, Rajon Rondo could easily find himself out of the league this time next year.