The NBA world was always waiting for the playoffs to judge the Rajon Rondo trade.
Though the Dallas Mavericks’ offence — the NBA’s best before the trade — fell off after acquiring Rondo and their defence only got marginally better, it was Rondo’s playoff experience and extra gear that was supposed to be the ultimate benefit.
Regular season evidence pointed to Rondo being a bad fit with the Mavs — he was the only Maverick to play over 1,000 regular season minutes and have a negative net rating. But his championship experience and ability to post triple-doubles with ease was supposed to be the factor that turned the Mavericks into a title contender.
Instead, the Mavericks are down 2-0 in their first-round series with the Houston Rockets, and the trade looks like a disaster.
Rondo played less than 10 minutes in Game 2. He played only 34 seconds in the second half before he was benched for backup point guards J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton, who only played 29 games this season.
In Rondo’s 37 minutes in the playoffs, the Mavericks have been outscored by 36 points and are being outscored by 34 points per 100 possessions, according to the NBA’s stats site.
Rondo looks completely out of sorts on the court. His inability to shoot clogs the Mavericks’ spacing, and thus, their offence. Rondo has also had issues with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as the two got into an on-court spat in February over play-calling duties and then continued to fight in the locker room afterward. Rondo was suspended the next game.
In the first quarter of Tuesday night’s loss to the Rockets, Rondo meandered up the court on offence, drawing an eight-second violation for not getting the ball across half-court. According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there are some people who believe this was a deliberate protest of Carlisle calling plays from the sideline.
ESPN’s Tim McMahon said Rondo didn’t speak to reporters after Game 2, and when asked about Rondo’s benching, Carlisle said, “All I know right now is that we need everybody at their competitive best.”
Making matters worse for the Mavericks is what they gave up for Rondo. They lost starting point guard Jameer Nelson (who was a nice fit for the offence), backup wing Jae Crowder (who’d be the only Maverick capable of slowing down James Harden in the playoffs), backup center Brendan Wright, a 2015 first-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick.
According to Wojnarowski, Rondo is all but gone from Dallas this summer when he becomes a free agent, especially if Carlisle is still the coach. That would be a steep price for the Mavericks to pay for half-a-season rental who arguably made the team worse.
The Mavs wouldn’t necessarily be any better with their original team, but they could have used those assets to find a better fit at point guard, especially when so many were available at this year’s trade deadline.
The Mavericks could still make this a series — they have two games at home and could have players returning from injury — but it doesn’t seem like Rondo will be the player that helps.
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