There isn’t a chance in hell that Rajon Rondo, who played just 10 minutes during last night’s Game 2 loss to the Rockets, is going to be in Dallas next year. To say as much isn’t so much a prediction as it is a statement of fact. The real question is whether Rajon Rondo will ever again be the star he once was.
Rondo’s 10 minutes of floor time were the fewest he’s ever had in a playoff game, and during the minutes he actually was on the floor, he looked like a guy who would have rather been standing in line at the DMV. His night began with a downright silly eight-second violation, which he followed up by getting lost on defense and surrendering a wide-open three to Jason Terry. It ended with back-to-back fouls and getting called for a stupid technical after shoving James Harden.
Rondo’s postgame comments were what you’d expect them to be, which is to say they were non-existent. From ESPN:
Rajon Rondo looped around the media horde surrounding his stall late Tuesday night in the Toyota Center visitors’ locker room and darted into the trainer’s room.
A couple of minutes later, Rondo emerged with headphone buds in his ears and ignored the handful of reporters who attempted to ask him questions as he walked toward the arena’s exits, his eyes never shifting from straight ahead.
This crash and burn has been on the horizon ever since Rondo arrived in Dallas via mid-season trade. The Mavs thought they were getting a guy who could stabilize the point guard position and add some juice to the team’s offense, but instead they got a can’t-shoot point guard who never found a way to fit into Rick Carlisle’s offense and wasn’t shy about getting surly with his coach.
Rondo’s always been a cranky guy who can’t really shoot, but his deficiencies have never been more glaring than they were this year. He couldn’t space the floor during those prime Boston years, either, but he was able to remain effective with the occasional foray into the paint. During the 2008-2009 season, the average distance from the rim of Rondo’s field goal attempts was seven feet, and 55 percent of his shots were taken at the rim, according to Basketball Reference. This year, that first number ballooned to 11.4 feet, and the second dropped to 30 percent. To make matters worse, Rondo’s persistent struggles at the free-throw line reached hilarious proportions this season. He averaged 1.4 free-throw attempts per game, the lowest mark of his career, and he shot 39 percent from the stripe.
All of this should add up to make Rondo’s impending free agency one of the more fascinating subplots of the upcoming offseason. The man is now more of an enigma than he has ever been. What kind of coaches can he get along with? Is there an NBA system that still fits him? Is he even capable of being good anymore? Was he ever really all that good, or did his trio of Hall-of-Fame teammates just make him look better than he was?
Whatever happens this offseason, there’s a good chance that we’ve all seen the last of Playoff Rondo, the guy who used to transform into a cold-eyed killer every postseason. This is sad, because Playoff Rondo would bark at the likes of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as if he, the Big One, was the true backbone of the team. He was the guy who would suddenly transform into a sniper, drop 44 on the Heat, and issue challenges to LeBron James at mid-court. If you’re really gone forever, Playoff Rondo, you will be missed. RIP.